Holiday Shopping: Know the Law

During the holidays there is generally a rise in retail reports of shoplifting. This may be attributable to the overall increase in shopping during the holiday season, when storekeepers must be particularly watchful. Store displays at this time of year may also prove especially tempting to those who do not understand the devastating affect shoplifting convictions may have on their lives – particularly those undergoing immigration processes. Please read our InfoArticle on MurthyDotCom entitled, Beware Serious Immigration Consequences of Shoplifting.

Economic Impact of Theft

In some countries taking small items from stores may be looked upon simply as a nuisance or as “kid stuff.” It is important understand how very differently this is viewed in the U.S. Shoplifting laws throughout the United States have become stricter because it has a serious impact on the economy and is considered a serious societal problem. U.S. businesses suffer billions of dollars in lost revenues as a result of shoplifting. Families spend hundreds in additional dollars every year on goods as retailers try to compensate for their financial losses from shoplifting and other theft.

Definition of Shoplifting

The law generally defines shoplifting as intentionally taking an item without paying for it, or intentionally paying less for an item than its intended sales price. One must be careful never to hide or conceal an item that has not been purchased. Do not put an item into a bag you are already carrying before you have paid for it, even if you are within the store and may intend to pay for the item. One can be prosecuted for having the intent to shoplift. Changing or manipulating price tags, removing shopping carts or other store property, and committing refund or return fraud are all also illegal acts.

But It’s Just a Small Item

Many of those caught are taking relatively inexpensive items, often valued at well under one hundred dollars ($100). These individuals are usually remorseful and frightened. Even stealing a small item is no minor matter in the area of immigration law. It can and does create a myriad of immigration problems. We want to emphasize the importance of this to our readers. There is just no trinket or gadget that is worth the trouble created by shoplifting. Potential difficulties include thousands of dollars in legal fees for criminal and immigration representation in addition to the serious possibly of having to endure a criminal trial, jail, and/or fines, and, of course, the immigration consequences set out in the article cited above.


From time to time, we at the Murthy Law Firm receive inquiries from those who have gotten themselves into bad situations and, hence, advise all immigrants to be aware of the seriousness of this crime and the devastating impact it can have on one’s immigration status. We also suggest talking to your children to be certain they understand that shoplifting is wrong. Explain the serious affects of shoplifting to any visiting friends or relatives. The cost of the item in question is never worth everything that has been invested towards one’s immigration process.


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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.