Massachusetts Shoplifting Laws and Penalties

Each state has laws criminalizing theft, also called larceny in some jurisdictions. Most states also have separate statutes addressing shoplifting, which is generally defined as stealing merchandise from a place of business or retail store. Massachusetts' shoplifting laws address a variety of activities, including even the theft of a shopping cart. Of note, the shoplifting statute explicitly allows police officers to arrest a person without a warrant as long as they have probable cause to believe that the person was shoplifting. For purposes of the statute, the statement of a store owner or employee that a person stole their goods satisfies the probable cause requirement.

Massachusetts Shoplifting Laws and Penalties: The Basics

When researching legal questions, it's important to read the actual language of the law that applies. Unfortunately, this can be a daunting task, as laws are often written in "legalese" that can take time to interpret and understand. That's why it can be helpful to also read an overview of the law written in language free of legal jargon. Below you will find a summary of key provisions of shoplifting laws in Massachusetts as well as links to relevant statutes.

Statute(s) Massachusetts General Laws, Part IV, Title I, Chapter 266, Section 30A (Shoplifting)
Shoplifting Defined

The following acts, when done intentionally, are considered shoplifting:

  • Taking possession of or carrying away merchandise at a store with the intention of permanently depriving the store of the possession or benefit of the merchandise;
  • Hiding merchandise at a store in order to deprive the store of the proceeds, use or benefit of the merchandise;
  • Altering or removing a label or price tag in an attempt to purchase the merchandise at less than the full retail value with the intention to deprive the store of all or part of its retail value;
  • Transferring merchandise from one container to another with the intent to deprive the store of all or some of its retail value;
  • Recording a value for merchandise that's less than the actual retail value with the intent to deprive the store of the full retail value; or
  • Removing a shopping cart from a store's premises with the intent to deprive the store of the possession, use, or benefit of the cart.
Penalties

The penalties for shoplifting will depend on the value of the stolen merchandise:

  • If the stolen merchandise is valued at less than $100 it's punishable by a fine of up to $250 for a first offense*.
  • If the stolen merchandise is valued at $100 or more, up to two and a half years in a house of correction and/or a fine of up to $1,000.

*Please see the statute for penalties for second and subsequent offenses.

Related Statute(s)

Massachusetts General Laws, Part IV, Title I, Chapter 266:

  • Section 30 (Larceny: General Provision and Penalties)
  • Section 30B (Unlawful Distribution, Possession, or Deactivation/Removal of Theft Detection Shielding Device)
  • Section 30C (Possession, Use, Counterfeit of Receipts)
  • Section 30D (Organized Retail Crime)

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Massachusetts Shoplifting Laws and Penalties: Related Resources

For more information and resources related to this topic, you can click on the links below.

Get Legal Help with Your Shoplifting Case in Massachusetts

While shoplifting may not seem like a very serious crime, any criminal conviction in your record can have a negative impact on your life, career and future. If you're facing a shoplifting charge in Massachusetts, it's a good idea to get in touch with a skilled criminal defense attorney near you to discuss your charges and learn about your options moving forward.

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