Many people mistakenly think that shoplifting is a petty crime with few real consequences. However, the South Carolina Criminal Code establishes stiff penalties for this offense, including jail time and substantial fines. Those accused of stealing merchandise should be proactive in fighting the charges against them by contacting an experienced attorney.
A North Charleston shoplifting could be a crucial advocate throughout the legal process. If the police believe that you stole items, talk to a legal advisor at Adams & Bischoff as soon as possible to protect your future.
Shoplifting is a Theft Crime
Shoplifting is just another word for theft. Various behaviors fall under the definition outlined in South Carolina Code of Laws, Section 16-13-110. The most common form of shoplifting is to remove an item from a store without paying (e.g., stashing makeup in a purse and walking out the door). However, the following acts also constitute shoplifting:
- Moving an item from a bin or display case with a higher sales price to one with a lower price
- Tampering with sales tags (manipulating, removing, switching, or altering so a lower price is charged)
The individual does not need to pay the incorrect price and leave the store with the goods to face charges. So long as they engage in the conduct and intend to cause the establishment to lose money, they may be charged with shoplifting.
State of Mind in a Shoplifting Case
In addition to showing evidence of affirmative action, the prosecutor must establish the suspect’s state of mind. That is, the accused person must have intended to permanently withhold property from its legal owner. Proof of intent is critical to a conviction.
For example, say that a person trying on necklaces and browses through other items in the store. They then leave the store, forgetting that they are wearing the necklace. The prosecutor may argue that they intended to put on the necklace and leave the store, thus committing shoplifting. However, a shoplifting defense attorney might counter that since the person forgot they were wearing the jewelry when they left the store, they did not intend to deprive the retailer of the sale permanently. Their action was a mistake, so the defendant had no criminal intent and did nothing illegal.
Applying this understanding of the law to a given situation requires extensive legal knowledge. An accused person should seek the representation of a skilled attorney who focuses on shoplifting cases in North Charleston.
Criminal Punishments for Shoplifting in North Charleston
Those charged with attempted shoplifting and actual shoplifting face the same penalties under S.C. Code § 16-13-110(B). When the value of the goods is less than $2,000, the crime is considered a misdemeanor. Penalties include up to 30 days in jail, a maximum $1,000 fine, or both.
The government will charge a defendant with felony shoplifting if the property is worth more than $2,000. For goods valued between $2,000 and $10,000, a guilty verdict will result in incarceration up to five years, a maximum $1,000 fine, or both. When the value of the stolen items exceeds $10,000, defendants may serve up to 10 years in prison.
Other Consequences of Shoplifting Charges
Beyond the loss of freedom, a criminal record may negatively affect an individual’s opportunities in the following areas:
- Public assistance
- Military service
The store may bar convicted individuals from ever entering the establishment against. They may also file trespassing charges if the person comes onto the premises, even during business hours.
Additionally, the accused may find themselves subject to collection activities or civil lawsuits seeking restitution for the shoplifted goods. To avoid these collateral consequences, accused individuals need to aggressively respond to the charges. Hiring a seasoned shoplifting attorney in the area is a wise first step.
Build a Strong Defense with a North Charleston Shoplifting Attorney
South Carolina harshly punishes all theft crimes, including shoplifting. If you have been accused of stealing, do not take these charges lightly. Call today and speak with a knowledgeable North Charleston shoplifting lawyer at Adams & Bischoff. Our attorneys could help combat the allegations against you and create a personalized defense strategy for your circumstances.