Are Shoplifting Laws Tough Enough?

Shoplifters cost stores throughout the United States an average of forty billion dollars every year. This trend continues because the current shoplifting laws are not tough enough to dissuade shoplifters from committing the crime. Those who are caught, tend to go right back to shoplifting because they are often just given a small fine and probation. Even many of those who are caught shoplifting several times tend to get a “slap on the wrist”. Since many shoplifters do not steal a large amount of merchandise at a time, they are often just required to return the merchandise and are asked to not return to the store if they are caught.

Shoplifting is defined as stealing a product or good that was intended for purchase. Even taking a candy bar without paying for it is considered shoplifting. Regardless of a person’s age, if they take an item without paying for it they are shoplifting – and shoplifting is a crime. All cases of shoplifting have consequences if the person is caught and in most municipalities it is up to the owner of the establishment whether they want to prosecute a shoplifter or not when they catch them.

In most municipalities, shoplifting threatens heavy penalties such as being arrested and in some cases charged with a crime. However, many municipalities “go easy” on first-time shoplifters and juvenile shoplifters. This typically leads first-time shoplifters and juvenile shoplifters to commit the crime again. Those in these two categories often do not even get arrested and are simply required to return the merchandise. In some cases, they are told to not return to the store. Many malls also sometimes require juvenile offenders to only enter the mall with a parent if they are caught shoplifting.

In some cases, shoplifting can prevent a person from obtaining employment. Especially any type of employment where money or small products are involved. For example, places like retail stores, banks or money marts. However, this consequence of shoplifting often doesn’t affect those who were caught shoplifting as juveniles because either their record is sealed or the place that they shoplifted from didn’t press any formal charges.

The majority of shoplifters who are prosecuted only end up with a misdemeanor and little if any jail time. Many of them will either have a small fine, some community service or both. Some will get probation. It is quite rare that a shoplifter is handed a felony and serious jail time. These charges make shoplifters unafraid to commit the crime again. They feel that a little community service, probation or a small fine is a small price to pay for getting caught shoplifting. All municipalities need to impose stricter punishment on shoplifters if they intend to discourage people from committing it.


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