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Organized retail theft isn’t “shoplifting”

On Behalf of | Sep 24, 2023 | Criminal Defense

Thefts from retailers of all types and sizes have gotten out of control throughout the country – including here in Virginia. They’ve gone far beyond “shoplifting” and become organized, brazen and sometimes violent – as well as highly costly. 

Often, they involve large groups of people – sometimes brought together over social media. What may look like spontaneous smash-and-grab robberies are often instigated much like flash mobs online. People may not even know what’s going to happen until they get there.

Virginia’s organized retail theft law

Lawmakers in many states, including Virginia, have taken notice and implemented or strengthened laws to deal with organized retail theft. Under Virginia law, this offense applies to anyone “who conspires or acts in concert with another person to commit simple larceny of retail property from one or more retail mercantile establishments, with a value exceeding $5,000 aggregated over a 90-day period….”

Even if someone doesn’t participate in the theft, they can be charged with the crime if they were involved in planning it as an “organizer, supervisor, financier, leader, or manager.” They can also be charged if they gave or sold the property to someone or if they took possession of it “while knowing or having reasonable grounds to believe the property was unlawfully obtained.”

You’ve probably heard the term “fencing” with regard to stolen property. Under the law, a “fence” refers to a “person or business that buys retail property knowing or believing that such retail property has been unlawfully obtained.”

It can be all too easy to get caught up in an organized retail theft. It may be as simple as seeing something on social media and wanting to join in. However, you could find yourself facing a felony charge. If someone is injured or killed, the charges can be even more serious. Whatever the situation, if you’re facing an organized retail theft charge, it’s crucial to get your own individual legal guidance as soon as possible to protect your rights and effectively present your case.


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