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Nebraska penalizes shoplifting as a serious form of theft

Many people may think of shoplifting, also called retail fraud, as a relatively minor crime. Traditionally, a crime committed by young people or teenagers, shoplifting simply doesn't seem as serious to many people when compared with home invasion or armed robbery. The state of Nebraska, however, takes all forms of theft seriously, including shoplifting.

Shoplifting involves entering a retail store and making efforts to leave the store with merchandise without paying for it. A person does not successfully need to steal anything to face shoplifting charges. Simply engaging in behaviors that hide an item could be sufficient cause for a shoplifting charge. Other times, a person who forgot an item under one's cart could end up facing criminal charges.

Shoplifting is more than just hiding something in your pocket

The definition of shoplifting is more broad than the theft of a small item by hiding it under your clothing or in a purse. In fact, Nebraska considers any attempt to change, alter or switch price tags a form of shoplifting as well. That makes sense, because the intent is still to deprive the business of the full retail value of an item, even if someone is paying a lower price for it.

Similarly, removing the label or packaging from one item to place it on a higher priced item is also a form of shoplifting. Even hiding objects inside other items, like the toes of the shoes you're buying, is a form of shoplifting. Finally, any attempt to bypass, override or remove a security device or trick a cash register is also shoplifting in Nebraska.

The penalties depend on the value of the goods

For those accused of shoplifting, the actual criminal charges and penalties that result from allegedly shoplifting will vary drastically based on the value of the items involved and the criminal record of the person accused of the crime.

Items worth less than $200 with no previous convictions face a Class II misdemeanor, which carries up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. For goods worth under $200 when the accused has a previous conviction, the charges become a Class I misdemeanor, carrying up to a year in jail and a fine of as much as $1,000. For those with three or more previous convictions and items valued at under $200, the charges increase to a Class IV felony, which carries as much as five years in prison and fine of up to $10,000.

If the items are worth between $200 and $500, but the person accused has no previous conviction, the offense is a Class I misdemeanor, while the same items carry a Class IV felony for those with a prior conviction. If the goods are worth between $500 and $1,500, the charges will be a Class IV felony, while items valued at $1,500 or more carry Class III felony charges, which could result in up to 25 years in prison or a fine of up to $15,000.

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