Best Buy laptop thieves face no jail time, small fine if caught

Best Buy security cam footage released by Lebanon, NH PD

by Guy Page

A large retail ‘big box’ store in West Lebanon NH – just across the Connecticut River from Vermont – was hit by retail thieves July 16. If caught and convicted, the thieves face no jail time and a fine little more than the value of the laptops they stole.

According to the Lebanon Police Department, on Saturday, July 16, at about 5:30 pm, two male suspects walked out of Best Buy in West Lebanon with stolen laptop computers. The two males left the area on foot and were last seen on CCTV cameras walking towards BJ’s Wholesale Club.

The Lebanon Police Department is investigating the incident and asks anyone who may have information to call 603-448-1212. Information can also be submitted anonymously to our Tip Line 603-448-CLUE or online at

In the security photo, both shoplifters are carrying one laptop each. That is significant. 

A quick survey of the Best Buy website shows 10 laptop computers for sale – all $899 or less. By New Hampshire state law (and in practice in Vermont), a conviction for retail theft of that amount of property results in no jail time.

Theft constitutes an unclassified misdemeanor in New Hampshire if stolen property or services have a value of $1,000 or less, according to Such a theft may be charged as a class A or B misdemeanor. In most cases, prosecutors charge misdemeanor theft as a class B misdemeanor, which results in no jail time and a fine of up to $1,200.

In Vermont, a person convicted of the offense of retail theft of merchandise having a retail value not in excess of $900 shall be punished by a fine of not more than $500 or imprisonment for not more than six months, or both. In practice, Vermont shoplifters almost never “do time” if convicted. 

A bill to aggregate the value of property stolen by two or more people – in effect, allowing both men above to be charged with stealing both laptops if they were to commit the same crime in Vermont – died in the Vermont Legislature last year. 

Retail theft losses reached $90 million in Vermont last year. Nationally, retail theft is a $69 billion criminal industry. Not only are criminals wise to stealing only enough to qualify for a misdemeanor if caught, but internet forums such as Facebook Marketplace facilitate the fencing of stolen goods. 

Incumbent State’s Attorney Sarah George of Chittenden County has suggested a taxpayer-funded program to reimburse retail stores for theft losses. 

Categories: Crime

3 replies »

  1. Maybe the LeBaron police department can better describe the suspect’s height, weight, gender and race…..

  2. I think our justice system is weak and useless. Instead of suggesting taxpayers foot the bill for thieves, Sarah should prosecute the criminals.

  3. Having been poor for so long, I have ambivalent feelings. That being stated, I don’t shoplift, steal or swindle. The trend to openly steal and rob is out of control in this country.

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