Why Do People Start Shoplifting — and What Are the Potential Penalties?

According to Loss Prevention Magazine, approximately one in every eleven people in the U.S. are shoplifters.

But why do people start shoplifting in the first place?

Reasons Why People Start Shoplifting

Different people shoplift for different reasons. Here are some of the most common reasons.

Lack of Money

Some people shoplift for the simple reason that they do not have enough money to buy the things they want and need.

For instance, in recent times, as the cost of living began to skyrocket, there was a huge increase in people shoplifting basic items like milk and cheese.

However, perhaps surprisingly, being unable to afford goods is not the most common reason for shoplifting. Often, the act has to do with psychological factors.

Psychological Disorders

Many people take things from stores illegally because it provides them with psychological benefits.

Therefore, the act of shoplifting is often not about the actual items being stolen but is more about the way that stealing makes a person feel.

For example, people could suffer from an impulse disorder, such as kleptomania, which means they effectively feel high when stealing and, therefore, it is difficult for such people to stop their addictive behavior.

Also, studies show that about a third of shoplifters suffer from depression.

Sometimes, brain injuries can cause people to shoplift because they no longer understand that not paying for items is wrong.

There are multiple psychological disorders and conditions that can lead people to start shoplifting and make it difficult for them to reel in their behavior.

Peer Pressure

People’s psychological states can also affect how likely it is for certain people to give in to peer pressure.

Many young shoplifters end up shoplifting because they have been pressured into it by their friends and do not have the willpower to say no.

Career Criminals

While the above reasons for shoplifting mainly apply to amateur shoplifters, some people shoplift due to being career criminals.

People who have little regard for the law will commonly shoplift, often in groups.

For instance, one person could cause a distraction and another could keep a look out while their friend steals an item from a store.

Whereas amateur shoplifters steal for personal use, career criminals who shoplift typically do so to resell items on the black market.

Penalties for Shoplifting

In the U.S., the penalties for shoplifting differ from state to state. And the penalties in any state will differ depending on the precise circumstances of the shoplifting incident.

The exact penalty will also be determined by the value of the goods that are stolen. For example, penalties are typically much more severe for people who steal items like firearms and medications.

Most commonly, shoplifting results in a fine, but it can also result in a misdemeanor charge.

For felony theft convictions, the perpetrators could serve time in jail.

In New Jersey, to give you an example, penalties for shoplifting can result in jail time of up to eighteen months.

Shoplifting in New Jersey, which is classified as a fourth-degree offense, also typically results in a standard fine of up to $10,000.

Though, if you hire an experienced lawyer who knows how to handle fourth degree offenses, you can potentially obtain the best possible outcome for your criminal actions.

Summing Up

It is not only career criminals and people with no money who shoplift.

People shoplift for a wide variety of reasons, including psychological conditions and giving into peer pressure.

Even so, there should never be a reason for you to start shoplifting. If you do, you could end up paying hefty fines. You could even spend time in jail.