The last few years have witnessed a significant rise in what is known as “organized retail crime.” This isn’t shoplifting as most people know it. It involves multiple people, sometimes recruited via social media, who have been known to take over everything from large home improvement and electronics stores to jewelry and clothing stores in some of the priciest shopping districts in the country. These offenses are sometimes accompanied by violence.
States throughout the country have been enacting new laws and strengthening those already on the books to more effectively address this problem that has cost retailers across the country millions of dollars in lost goods and damage to their businesses. Last year, New Mexico’s then-Attorney General Hector Balderas noted that “it is more profitable now to go and steal from our local retailers than it is to sell drugs and guns in New Mexico.”
What’s in the new law?
This June, a new state law took effect that increases consequences for those who are convicted of retail theft. First, it creates a new crime called “aggravated shoplifting.” This offense, which is a third-degree felony, involves “unlawfully assaulting or striking at another with a deadly weapon immediately after an act of shoplifting in order to retain possession of stolen property or to effect an escape from the scene of an act of shoplifting.”
The law also makes it easier for prosecutors to put people behind bars for longer if they are convicted of multiple acts of retail theft within 90 days. The “aggregated retail market value” of the merchandise stolen during those thefts determines the potential penalty. The very act of aggravated shoplifting is more likely to lead to felony charges than other theft scenarios. A person convicted of stealing a total of $20,000 worth of goods alongside others, for example, could lead to a nine-year prison sentence.
Being in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people can leave a person facing serious criminal charges that can take away their freedom and follow them for the rest of their lives. Whatever the situation, if you find yourself facing any kind of retail theft charge, it’s not wise to try to deal with the justice system without experienced legal guidance. The law is complex and ever-changing and the stakes of your situation are inherently high. Seek out the guidance you need to have a better shot at a favorable result.