Shoplifting has existed for as long as shopkeepers have sold goods, and a survey found that Australian and New Zealand retailers reported a combined $2.6 billion worth of inventory loss due to shoplifting in the 2017-2018 financial year alone.
Shoplifting in QLD is one of the more common charges which courts deal with, and can result in a range of sentences.
Here, we answer some common questions about the legal consequences of shoplifting.
What is the Legal Definition of Shoplifting?
Shoplifting is dealt with by the Regulatory Offences Act (1985), falling under the category of ‘unauthorised dealing with shop goods’.
The act outlines various regulatory offences regarding shop goods, including:
• Eating or drinking something in a shop without paying
• Changing, swapping ore removing price tags to lower a product’s price
These acts are all illegal, and are dealt with by the Magistrates Court.
What is the Punishment for Shoplifting?
In Queensland, there are two different ways you can be charged if you are caught shoplifting.
If the sum of the stolen goods is less than $150 then the crime falls under the Regulatory Offences Act and a fine of 6 penalty units (equal to $800.70) can be applied. These regulatory offences are considered to be minor offences, so there is very little to no risk of being sent to jail.
However, if the value of goods stolen is more than $150, the offender may be charged with the more serious offence of stealing or fraud, which carries a maximum penalty of up to 5 years in prison.
If the theft involved aggravation, such as physically harming someone or carrying a weapon, the penalty can be up to 14 years in prison.
Repeated shoplifting offences may lead to the court handing down more severe sentencing in addition to the fines. However, if the shoplifting in question is your first offence, then the court may also consider issuing a good-behaviour bond as punishment.
Can I Still be Punished for Shoplifting if I am Caught After the Fact?
Yes. Even if you get away with shoplifting at the time, there is no timeframe after which shoplifting in QLD is no longer punishable by law.
You may have stolen an item and made it out of the store successfully, but if the store later realises that something has been stolen, they will usually review their CCTV footage in order to try and find the culprit. If your face is identifiable in the video, then the shop owner has the option to hand this evidence to the police, who may identify you, arrest you and issue you with a notice to appear.
What Should I Do if I am Charged with Shoplifting?
If you are charged with shoplifting in QLD, it is important to seek appropriate legal advice. Being unprepared before the court can have serious consequences for your future, and you could be facing potential jail time if the value of the goods stolen was over $150.
At Guest Lawyers, our expert lawyers can represent you in court and ensure that you have the best chance of achieving a desired outcome in regards to charges of shoplifting in QLD.