Retail Theft / Shoplifting

Utah’s criminal code has a separate statute that prohibits retail theft. Retail theft is commonly called "shoplifting" or "petty theft." The crime of shoplifting can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the circumstances and the value of the property taken. Most shoplifting cases involve taking property worth less than $500. If so, then the crime is usually charged as a class B misdemeanor.

These crimes are usually prosecuted under Utah's Criminal Code Section 76-6-602.

Retail theft and shoplifting cases are one of the few types of crimes committed by women more than men. The charges are serious because even a misdemeanor conviction for a first offense of shoplifting is considered a "crime of dishonesty" or a "crime of moral turpitude." A conviction for a crime of dishonesty comes with a lifetime of consequences. A conviction for shoplifting can show up in even the most basic of background checks.

In many of these cases, the goal is being eligible to expunge the criminal record as quickly as possible. 

Attorneys for Shoplifting in Salt Lake City, Utah

If you were charged with retail theft or shoplifting under Utah's criminal code Section 76-6-602, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Brown, Bradshaw & Moffat, LLP. With offices conveniently located in Salt Lake City, we are here to help. 

Whether this is your first offense, or a second or subsequent arrest for theft, our attorneys work hard to protect you at every stage of the case as we fight for the best possible outcome. Let us put our experience to work for you. Call (801) 532-5297 today to speak with an attorney about your case.


Penalties for Retail Theft under Section 76-6-606

An act of shoplifting or retain theft committed is punished under Subsection 76-6-412(1).

(1) Theft of property and services as provided in this chapter is punishable: 

(a) as a second degree felony if the: 

(i) the value of the property or services is or exceeds $5,000; 

(ii) property stolen is a firearm or an operable motor vehicle; 

(iii) the actor is armed with a dangerous weapon, as defined in Section 76-1-601, at the time of the theft; or 

(iv) property is stolen from the person of another; 

(b) as a third degree felony if: 

(i) the value of the property or services is or exceeds $1,500 but is less than $5,000; 

(ii) the actor has been twice before convicted of any of the offenses listed in Subsections (1)(b)(ii)(A) through (1)(b)(ii)(C), if each prior offense was committed within 10 years of the date of the current conviction or the date of the offense upon which the current conviction is based and at least one of those convictions is for a class A misdemeanor:

(A) any theft, any robbery, or any burglary with intent to commit theft; 

(B) any offense under Title 76, Chapter 6, Part 5, Fraud; or (C) any attempt to commit any offense under Subsection (1)(b)(ii)(A) or (B);

(iii) in a case not amounting to a second degree felony, the property taken is a stallion, mare, colt, gelding, cow, heifer, steer, ox, bull, calf, sheep, goat, mule, jack, jenny, swine, poultry, or a fur-bearing animal raised for commercial purposes; or

(iv) 

(A) the value of property or services is or exceeds $500 but is less than $1,500; 

(B) the theft occurs on a property where the offender has committed any theft within the past five years; and 

(C) the offender has received written notice from the merchant prohibiting the offender from entering the property pursuant to Section 78B-3-108;

(v) the actor has been twice before convicted of any of the offenses listed in Subsections (1)(b)(ii)(A) through (1)(b)(ii)(C), if each prior offense was committed within 10 years of the date of the current conviction or the date of the offense upon which the current conviction is based and the value of the property stolen is or exceeds $500 but is less than $1,500; or

(vi) the actor has been previously convicted of a felony violation of any of the offenses listed in Subsections (1)(b)(ii)(A) through (1)(b)(ii)(C); (c) as a class A misdemeanor if:

(i) the value of the property stolen is or exceeds $500 but is less than $1,500; 

(ii) 

(A) the value of property or services is less than $500; 

(B) the theft occurs on a property where the offender has committed any theft within the past five years; and 

(C) the offender has received written notice from the merchant prohibiting the offender from entering the property pursuant to Section 78B-3-108; or 

(v) the actor has been twice before convicted of any of the offenses listed in Subsections (1)(b)(ii)(A) through (1)(b)(ii)(C), if each prior offense was committed within 10 years of the date of the current conviction or the date of the offense upon which the current conviction is based, and the value of the property stolen is or exceeds $500 but is less than $1,500; or

(vi) the actor has been previously convicted of a felony violation of any of the offenses listed in Subsections (1)(b)(ii)(A) through (1)(b)(ii)(C);

(c) as a class A misdemeanor if:

(i) the value of the property stolen is or exceeds $500 but is less than $1,500;

(ii)

(A) the value of property or services is less than $500;

(B) the theft occurs on a property where the offender has committed any theft within the past five years; and

(C) the offender has received written notice from the merchant prohibiting the offender from entering the property pursuant to Section 78B-3-108; or

(iii) the actor has been twice before convicted of any of the offenses listed in Subsections (1)(b)(ii)(A) through (1)(b)(ii)(C), if each prior offense was committed within 10 years of the date of the current conviction or the date of the offense upon which the current conviction is based; or

(d) as a class B misdemeanor if the value of the property stolen is less than $500 and the theft is not an offense under Subsection (1)(c).

Furthermore, if a person violates Subsection 76-6-408(1) or Section 76-6-413, or commits theft of property described in Subsection 76-6-412(1)(b)(iii), then the person is civilly liable for three times the amount of actual damages, if any sustained by the plaintiff, and for costs of suit and reasonable attorney fees.


Definitions Under Utah’s Shoplifting Statute 76-6-601

Utah’s criminal code Section 76-6-601 defines the several different terms that apply throughout the retail theft statutory scheme including:

  • “merchant" - an owner or operator of any retail mercantile establishment where merchandise is displayed, held or offered for sale and includes the merchant's employees, servants or agents;
  • “merchandise" - any personal property displayed, held or offered for sale by a merchant;
  • “retail mercantile establishment" - any place where merchandise is displayed, held, or offered for sale to the public; and 
  • “premises of a retail mercantile establishment" - includes, but is not limited to, the retail mercantile establishment; any common use areas in shopping centers and all parking lots or areas set aside for the benefit of those patrons of the retail mercantile establishment.
  • “retail value" - the merchant's stated or advertised price of the merchandise.

Elements of Retail Theft under 76-6-602

Utah’s criminal code, section 76-6-602, sets out the elements of retail theft as follows:

  • knowingly taking possession of, concealing, carrying away, transferring or causing to be carried away or transferring, any merchandise displayed, held, stored or offered for sale in a retail mercantile establishment with the intention of:
    • retaining such merchandise; or
    • depriving the merchant permanently of the possession, use or benefit of such merchandise without paying the retail value of such merchandise; or
  • alters, transfers, or removes any label, price tag, marking, indicia of value or any other markings which aid in determining value of any merchandise displayed, held, stored or offered for sale, in a retail mercantile establishment and attempts to purchase such merchandise personally or in consort with another at less than the retail value with the intention of depriving the merchant of the retail value of such merchandise; or
  • transfers any merchandise displayed, held, stored or offered for sale in a retail mercantile establishment from the container in or on which such merchandise is displayed to any other container with the intention of depriving the merchant of the retail value of such merchandise; or
  • under-rings with the intention of depriving the merchant of the retail value of the merchandise; or
  • removes a shopping cart from the premises of a retail mercantile establishment with the intent of depriving the merchant of the possession, use or benefit of such cart.

Detention of Suspected Shoplifters by Merchants under 76-6-603

If a merchant has probable cause to believe that a person has committed retail theft, the merchant may detain such person, on or off the premises of a retail mercantile establishment, in a reasonable manner and for a reasonable length of time for all or any of the following purposes:

(a) to make reasonable inquiry as to whether such person has in his possession unpurchased merchandise and to make a reasonable investigation of the ownership of such merchandise;

(b) to request identification;

(c) to verify such identification;

(d) to make a reasonable request of such person to place or keep in full view any merchandise such individual may have removed, or which the merchant has reason to believe he may have removed, from its place of display or elsewhere, whether for examination, purchase, or for any other reasonable purpose; (e) to inform a peace officer of the detention of the person and surrender that person to the custody of a peace officer;

(f) in the case of a minor, to inform a peace officer, the parents, guardian, or other private person interested in the welfare of that minor immediately, if possible, of this detention and to surrender custody of such minor to such person.

If the detention occurs off the premises of the retail mercantile establishment, the detention must be after an immediate pursuit of such person.

Utah section 76-6-604 provides a defense for a merchant who detains a person after finding probable cause to believe the person committed retail theft and the merchant acted reasonably under the circumstances. The defense applies to a civil lawsuit is brought by any person detained who brings a lawsuit for any of the following:

  • false imprisonment;
  • false arrest;
  • assault;
  • unlawful detention;
  • defamation of character;
  • trespass; or
  • invasion of civil rights.

Additional Resources

Statutes for Retail Theft in Utah - Visit the website of the Utah State Legislature to find the statutory language for retail theft and other offenses against property in Part 6.  Find the definitions, acts constituting retail theft, special protections for merchants who detain suspected shoplifters, penalties for shoplifting, and penalties for removing theft detection shielding devices. 


Finding an Attorney for Retail Theft in Salt Lake City, Utah

If you were charged with retail theft or shoplifting in Salt Lake City or the surrounding areas in Utah, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss your case. Find out what you need to do right now to protect yourself against a false or exaggerated accusation. We also represent clients charged with removing theft detection devices or using detection shielding services.

Let us put our experience to work for you. Call (801) 532-5297 today to speak with an attorney at Brown, Bradshaw & Moffat, LLP experienced in defending theft crimes in Utah.