What is Virginia Law on Concealing Merchandise and Altering Price Tags?
Virginia’s law on Concealing Merchandise, Altering Price Tags, Transferring Containers, and Counseling Aiding or Abetting in the same is Va. Code 18.2-103:
Whoever, without authority, with the intention of converting goods or merchandise to his own or another’s use without having paid the full purchase price thereof, or of defrauding the owner of the value of the goods or merchandise, (i) willfully conceals or takes possession of the goods or merchandise of any store or other mercantile establishment, or (ii) alters the price tag or other price marking on such goods or merchandise, or transfers the goods from one container to another, or (iii) counsels, assists, aids or abets another in the performance of any of the above acts, when the value of the goods or merchandise involved in the offense is less than $1,000, shall be guilty of petit larceny and, when the value of the goods or merchandise involved in the offense is $1,000 or more, shall be guilty of grand larceny. The willful concealment of goods or merchandise of any store or other mercantile establishment, while still on the premises thereof, shall be prima facie evidence of an intent to convert and defraud the owner thereof out of the value of the goods or merchandise.
What does this mean?
This law is separate from the general larceny statutes, although offenses are punished the same as larceny. If the value of the goods is less than $1,000, then the charge is Petit Larceny, a Class 1 Misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail, and/or a $2,500 fine. If the value of the goods is $1,000 or more, then the charge is Grand Larceny, and Class 6 Felony punishable by up to 5 years incarceration, and/or up to a $2,500 fine.
Offenses under this law do not require actually leaving the premises. This law is about concealment and altering price tags. This law also includes those who “counsel, assist, aids or abets” another. But the Commonwealth does have to establish an intent to defraud. So it may very well be a defense that you only put something in your pocket because you forgot to get a cart. Or it might be helpful if you were simply with someone who was violating this statute, but had no idea what they were doing. However, these defense are best made by your lawyer. Trying to argue your case to the Loss Prevention Office (LPO) or police just increases the likelihood that you accidentally say something incriminating.