Shoplifting is a criminal offense that many people do not take seriously enough. Given that the victim of shoplifting is a business, people can be dismissive about the crime because they view it as victimless. They don’t recognize the impact that retail theft can have on employees and the prices customers pay for products.
Additionally, people often think that shoplifting is less serious in the criminal courts than burglary or robbery, which puts individuals at risk of physical injury. Most shoplifting scenarios do not involve a weapon or any kind of physical altercation. While it is true that shoplifting offenses in Ohio are often categorized as misdemeanor crimes, state prosecutors can potentially charge someone with a felony over shoplifting allegations, which is just one more reason why these kinds of allegations must be taken seriously.
The value of the merchandise is the deciding factor
The way that Ohio prosecutors handle theft charges will largely depend on the value of the items involved. Given that shoplifting often involves lower-value property, such as cosmetics, people often assume that any Ohio shoplifting charge will be of misdemeanor offense.
It is easier than people realize to cross the line into felony territory in a shoplifting scenario. Individuals who face accusations of stealing designer sunglasses, jewelry or electronics could end up facing felony charges. The merchandise involved needs to have a retail value of $1,000 or more for the state to pursue a felony offense. Particularly in cases where people target high-value items or repeatedly shoplift from the same business, it is possible for the state to bring felony charges over shoplifting.
Unless the property is worth more than $7,500, someone will likely face a fifth-degree felony charge, which could lead to up to 12 months in prison and $2,500 in fines. Those accused of shoplifting involving property worth more than $7,500 will face higher-level grand theft felony charges with more serious penalties.
Intentionally leaving the store with unpaid merchandise, putting one item inside of another or swapping the tags on retail merchandise are all examples of actions that could lead to shoplifting charges under Ohio state law. Recognizing when a shoplifting offense could risk life-altering consequences can help defendants to respond appropriately to allegations by seeking legal guidance as proactively as possible.