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New Mexico’s new law increases shoplifting penalties

On Behalf of | Jul 5, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

In recent years, there’s been an increase in brazen thefts from retailers ranging from home improvement megastores to high-end jewelry stores. These have cost retailers millions of dollars in lost items and damage to their businesses. Further, these thefts are sometimes accompanied by violence.

States throughout the country have been enacting and amending laws to better address what’s known as “organized retail crime.” New Mexico has not escaped the problem. Last year, now-former Attorney General Hector Balderas declared that “it is more profitable now to go and steal from our local retailers than it is to sell drugs and guns in New Mexico.”

Repeated and “aggravated” shoplifting

This June, a new law took effect that law enforcement agencies and prosecutors hope will keep those convicted for repeated acts of shoplifting (particularly when the stolen items are valuable) behind bars and deter others. 

Under this law, if a person is charged with more than one act of shoplifting over the course of 90 days, whether at the same retailer or not, their potential sentence will be based on the total value of items taken during those alleged acts. Since sentencing is based in large part on this value, allowing this aggregation will make it easier to charge suspected shoplifters with felonies instead of misdemeanors. For example, someone convicted of stealing over $20,000 in merchandise can face as long as 9 years in prison.

Further, the law creates a new offense called “aggravated shoplifting,” which is a third-degree felony. This charge refers to “unlawfully assaulting or striking at another with a deadly weapon immediately after an act of shoplifting in order to retain possession of stolen property or to effect an escape from the scene of an act of shoplifting.”

Shoplifting is becoming an increasingly serious offense. That’s why if you’re facing this charge, it’s crucial to protect your rights. Having experienced legal guidance can help you seek the best possible outcome based on your individual circumstances.