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A Guide to First Time Offense Misdemeanor Theft in MN

by | May 8, 2024 | Criminal Defense |

Facing a first-time misdemeanor theft charge in Minnesota can be daunting, but understanding the process and potential outcomes can alleviate some of the stress. Whether you’ve been accused of shoplifting or another form of misdemeanor theft, knowing your rights and options is crucial. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you navigate the legal landscape of first-time misdemeanor theft offenses in MN.


Understanding Misdemeanor Theft in Minnesota

First, we need to know what misdemeanor theft is in Minnesota. The most common act you’ll see charged as a misdemeanor theft is shoplifting. This could be getting caught not scanning all your items at self-checkout, or hiding an item to take it with you. 

According to Minnesota Statute 609.52, the prosecution must be able to prove that you took property without content and with the intent of permanently depriving the owner. 


Value of Stolen Items

One of the biggest questions that someone being charged with misdemeanor theft in MN is whether the item needs to be of a certain value. Technically, under Minnesota law, individuals can be prosecuted for stealing property of any value. Any property that is worth less than $500 is considered misdemeanor theft. 

There is one exception to this. Unreturned property to a tenant at the end of the lease. In this case, the property should be worth $100 or more. Other than that, nothing in the statute requires property to be worth anything to be charged with misdemeanor theft. 

You usually won’t see items of little to no value prosecuted because it typically happens in stores. Stores will have policies in place where they will only get law enforcement involved if a certain amount is stolen. For example, I have seen this from $50 to $250 depending on the retailer. 

If the item is valued at $500 or more, the state may charge you with gross misdemeanor theft. If the value is over $1000, the state may charge you with felony theft. 


Intent to Steal

At the base level, the majority of people are presumed to have taken it with the intent to deprive the owner. Most courts will find probable cause, which doesn’t mean you’re guilty, but that you must stand trial or some to an agreement. 

Proving intent to steal is a crucial aspect of a shoplifting charge. In many cases, individuals are presumed to have intended to deprive the owner of the property. However, various factors can influence this determination, such as the value of the item compared to the total bill and the presence of advanced security systems in the store.


Penalties and Potential Outcomes

Despite the potential severity of misdemeanor theft charges, first-time offenders in Minnesota often have options for resolving their cases without a conviction. Many prosecutors are willing to work towards outcomes such as a stay of adjudication or continuance for dismissal. These outcomes do not result in a conviction, meaning that the defendant’s criminal record remains clean. Additionally, there is an expungement process available to clear court records of the charges.

While the maximum penalty for misdemeanor theft in Minnesota is 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine, jail time is rare for first-time offenders. Prosecutors are often more concerned with restitution and maintaining positive relationships with retailers and the community. I have personally never seen a prosecutor deeply concerned with public safety over a first time misdemeanor theft offense in MN. 


Navigating the Legal Process

If you’re facing a first-time misdemeanor theft charge in Minnesota, it’s essential to seek legal representation as soon as possible. An experienced attorney can assess the details of your case, advise you on your rights, and help you navigate the legal process effectively.



Facing a first-time misdemeanor theft charge in Minnesota can be intimidating, but it’s essential to remember that you have rights and options. By understanding the legal process, potential outcomes, and the importance of legal representation, you can work towards resolving your case with the best possible outcome. Whether through negotiation with prosecutors or presenting a strong defense in court, there are avenues to mitigate the consequences of a misdemeanor theft charge and move forward with your life.