Nevada law defines shoplifting as intentionally stealing items from a retail establishment. The crime is formally referred to as larceny. The degree of larceny depends on the value of the stolen merchandise. Taking less than $1,200 worth of items is petty larceny (NRS 205.240). Taking $1,200 or more is prosecuted as the more serious crime of grand larceny (NRS 205.220).
Four of the most common defenses to fight shoplifting charges include:
- The defendant had no intent to steal;
- No stealing occurred;
- The defendant was misidentified; or
- The police found the items through an illegal search
In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys discuss:
- 1. What is the legal definition of shoplifting in Nevada?
- 2. What are the penalties?
- 3. What are common defenses?
- 4. Are there immigration consequences?
- 5. Can the record be sealed?
- 6. Is shoplifting like burglary?
1. What is the legal definition of shoplifting in Nevada?
The legal definition of shoplifting is when someone “intentionally steals, takes or carries away” store property.1
Shoplifting typically occurs when a person in a store slips a piece of merchandise in their pocket, bag, or under their arm. And then they try to leave the premises unnoticed.
If store employees catch the suspected thief, they can lawfully detain the suspect for a reasonable period of time until the police show up. This is called the shopkeeper’s privilege (NRS 597.850).2
2. What are the penalties?
The sentence for shoplifting depends on the value of the goods stolen:
|Value of stolen property||Shoplifting punishment in Nevada|
|Less than $1,200||Misdemeanor:|
For first-time offenses, some judges agree to dismiss the case. The defendant would just need to pay a fine, restitution, and attend petty larceny school. This is an online class.3
|$1,200 to less than $5,000||category D felony|
|$5,000 to less than $25,000||category C felony|
|$25,000 to less than $100,000||category B felony|
|$100,000 or more||category B felony|
3. What are common defenses?
Any of the following four arguments could be sufficient to get a shoplifting charge dismissed in Nevada:
- The defendant did not intend to steal. Sometimes store patrons get distracted and innocently leave the premises after forgetting to pay. Or maybe another person planted the stolen merchandise on the defendant without his/her knowledge. As long as the defendant did not intend to steal, no crime occurred.
- No shoplifting happened. Perhaps the shopkeeper agreed to let the defendant pay at a later time. Or maybe the defendant did pay, and the shopkeeper’s records are wrong. In these cases, such evidence as receipts, promissory notes, eyewitness testimony, and video footage may help demonstrate that nothing was wrongfully taken.
- Mistaken identity. Perhaps in the heat of the moment, the store owner attributed the theft to the wrong person. If the defense attorney can raise a reasonable doubt about the suspect’s identity, then the charges should be dropped.
- The police conducted an illegal search. Law enforcement requires probable cause in order to search. If the allegedly stolen merchandise was found through an unlawful search, then the judge may disregard it as evidence. That may leave the D.A. with too weak a case to continue prosecuting.
4. Are there immigration consequences?
Petty larceny is usually not deportable. But grand larceny is.5 Therefore, non-citizens facing grand larceny charges should seek legal counsel right away. Getting the charge dismissed or reduced to a non-deportable offense may be the only way to stay in the U.S.
5. Can the record be sealed?
Shoplifting convictions are sealable after a predetermined time period. And if the case gets dismissed, there is no waiting period at all to petition for a seal:
Nevada shoplifting conviction
Waiting period to get a record seal
|Petty larceny||1 year after the case ends|
|Grand larceny||5 years after the case ends5|
|Dismissal (no conviction)||Right away7|
The record seal process itself takes several weeks or months. But it is highly recommended. Employers are far more likely to hire people without larceny cases on their background checks.
6. Is shoplifting like burglary?
Retail theft is a separate offense from burglary (NRS 205.060). Burglary is the act of entering a building or vehicle with the intent to commit any of the following crimes inside:
- Larceny (including shoplifting);
- Assault (NRS 200.471);
- Battery (NRS 200.481);
- Any felony; or
- Obtaining money or property by false pretenses (NRS 205.380)
Therefore, a person could face burglary charges even if he/she never commits a crime while inside the vehicle or structure. All that matters is the person’s intent while going inside.
Burglary is always a felony.8
¿Habla español? Obtener información acerca de las leyes de hurto en tiendas Nevada.
In California? Learn about shoplifting laws (459.5 PC).
In Colorado? Learn about shoplifting by concealment (18-4-406 C.R.S.).
- NRS 205.240; NRS 205.220.
- NRS 597.850.
- NRS 205.240.
- NRS 205.222.
- 8 USC 1227.
- NRS 179.245.
- NRS 179.255.
- NRS 205.060; see Sheriff, Clark County v. Stevens, 97 Nev. 316, 630 P.2d 256 (1981).