Shoplifting laws in Mississippi have changed. Here's how.

House Bill 585, the sweeping criminal justice reform bill that passed Mississippi’s Legislature earlier this year, went into effect July 1, 2014. While it touched on many areas of criminal law, one of the more affected areas was shoplifting.

Prior to the enactment of HB 585, shoplifting any item worth $500 or less was a misdemeanor, and carried up to 6 months in jail. In some areas, jail time was rarely given. But in certain areas, like Flowood, jail time was nearly universally applied, no matter the circumstances, for any misdemeanor shoplifting conviction. If the item was worth more than $500, the offense was considered a felony, and carried up to 10 years in the state penitentiary. There was also enhanced punishment for petty shoplifters, with the third shoplifting offense in 5 years being treated as a felony, punishable by up to 5 years in the state penitentiary.

Several important changes were made in HB 585, starting with a raising of the amount of merchandise required for a person to be charged with felony shoplifting. Whereas the previous cutoff was $500, a person now has to be charged with shoplifting more than $1,000 worth of merchandise in order to be charged with a felony. The punishment for the new felony shoplifting is to be the same as the punishment for the new grand larceny statute, which is as follows:

  • $1,000-$5,000 – Up to 5 years in the state penitentiary, and a fine of no more than $10,000
  • $5,000-$25,000 – Up to 10 years, and a fine of no more than $10,000
  • More than $25,000 – Up to 20 years, and a fine of no more than $10,000

Another very important change involves frequent petty shoplifters. Before, if someone was convicted of 3 misdemeanor shoplifting charges in a 5-year period, the third conviction was treated as a felony, punishable by up to 5 years in the penitentiary. Now, that third offense carries only 3 years in the penitentiary.

Finally, additional changes were made that give the judge in a misdemeanor case less discretion in determining whether or not a person should be placed in jail or on probation.

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