Though shoplifting may not seem serious, the consequences of an arrest could be dramatic. If you are facing charges, it may be in your best interest to speak with an experienced theft attorney and learn more about shoplifting charges and the potential defenses available to you.

You may not know how a shoplifting case proceeds or what you can expect in the coming months. A Charleston shoplifting lawyer could help you understand what you are up against and how you may be able to handle the situation most effectively.

Shoplifting Laws in Charleston

The laws related to stealing merchandise appears in the South Carolina Code §16-13-110. Shoplifting includes the following acts:

  • Taking possession of, moving, or transferring property from one location in a store to another
  • Causing merchandise to be moved
  • Changing where an item is displayed, held, offered for sale, or stored
  • Changing, switching, or removing a price tag
  • Transferring property to another container

Legally, the actor must have had the intention to deprive the owner of the full value of the item, but a retailer might accuse someone of shoplifting if that person moved an item from one place in the store to another without ever removing it from the establishment.

Merchandise Worth $2,000 or Less

Shoplifting merchandise worth less than $2,000 is a misdemeanor offense. If the court convicts a defendant of misdemeanor shoplifting, the defendant may be fined up to $1,000 or imprisoned for up to 30 days.

Merchandise Worth More than $2,000

If a person steals property worth more than $2,000, that person may have committed a felony. If the court finds a defendant guilty, they may face up to five years in jail and up to $1,000 in fines.

Fraudulent Product Codes

If a person creates fake product codes to obtain merchandise for less than the sales price and puts that code on a product, they have committed a crime, pursuant to S.C. Code §16-13-131. A first offense is a misdemeanor punishable with up to three years in jail and up to $5,000 in fines. Individuals facing shoplifting penalties should seek the services of a skilled defense lawyer right away.

Civil Claims Relating to Charleston Shoplifting Offenses

In addition to a criminal case pursued by a state prosecutor, a store may pursue civil actions against an alleged thief to restore the value of the item taken. If the plaintiff in the civil case is successful, the claim could result in a judgment fulfilled by wage garnishment. A defendant may lose government support, college scholarships, immigration visas, employment opportunities, and housing.

Given the risk of a corresponding civil claim in a criminal shoplifting case, an accomplished shoplifting lawyer in Charleston may be able to build a criminal defense that does not expose a defendant to unnecessary civil liability.

Speak with a Charleston Shoplifting Attorney

If you are facing shoplifting charges, you may be unsure of what steps to take. It could be helpful to start by meeting with an attorney to learn more about theft laws and how the local criminal process operates. A Charleston shoplifting lawyer may be able to explain what defenses are available and what rights you may assert. Reach out today to speak with an experienced attorney.