Most states have established set dollar amounts to determine whether a theft or larceny charge should be a misdemeanor or a felony. South Carolina has one of the higher amounts, which relegates many theft crimes to misdemeanor offenses. Nonetheless, as a Summerville theft lawyer can advise, even a misdemeanor larceny charge can have severe consequences for your future.

A permanent criminal record, high fines, civil liability, and jail time can all result from a larceny conviction, whether for a misdemeanor or a felony. A conviction may prevent you from some types of employment and schooling opportunities. As a result, individuals who are facing any level of larceny charges may want to contact a criminal defense lawyer for advice first.

Theft Offenses in Summerville

South Carolina Code of Laws § 16-13-10 divides theft or larceny into two different classes: petit larceny and grand larceny. Petit larceny is a misdemeanor offense that occurs when individuals steal property worth $2,000 or less. A conviction for petit larceny can result in a 30-day jail sentence and a $1,000 fine.

Grand larceny, on the other hand, involves the theft of property worth $2,000 or more. This offense is a felony under state law. The potential prison sentence for a grand larceny conviction depends on the value of the stolen goods. For goods worth between $2,000 and $10,000, the maximum prison sentence is five years, and for products worth more than $10,000, the maximum prison sentence is ten years.

State law provides for other specific theft offenses, such as stealing bonds or promissory notes, as well as the theft of dogs, livestock, vessels, and bicycles. The penalties for these offenses also depend upon the value of the property stolen.

Shoplifting Offenses

SC Code of Laws § 16-13-110 establishes shoplifting as a separate theft offense. Various actions can constitute shoplifting, including:

  • Taking merchandise from a store without paying its full retail value
  • Altering, switching, or removing price tags on merchandise to attempt to purchase it for less than retail value
  • Transferring or moving merchandise from one container to another to obtain it without paying full retail value

In any of these situations, the individuals must have the intent to deprive the store owner of the total retail value of the merchandise to be guilty of the offense.

Although shoplifting falls under a separate code section than petit and grand larceny, the penalties for shoplifting are the same as those for larceny. Shoplifting merchandise worth less than $2,000 is a misdemeanor offense. Furthermore, shoplifting merchandise more than $2,000 is a felony offense. A lawyer in Summerville may be able to intervene on behalf of individuals facing theft charges to defend their interests.

Civil Liability in Theft Cases

Under SC Code of Laws §15-75-40, store and business owners may file civil actions against individuals who steal merchandise from them. They can recover the retail price of the merchandise up to $1,500 if they are unable to retrieve the goods in a sellable condition. They can also seek a penalty equivalent to three times the value of the merchandise, up to a maximum of $500.

If minors commit the theft, and their custodial parents or legal guardians know of their propensity to steal, they may also be liable for civil penalties. If liable, they are subject to the same penalties for which adults will be liable. A theft attorney in Summerville can advise individuals about the full extent of the criminal and civil liability resulting from a theft charge.

Talk to a Summerville Theft Attorney Right Away

A theft conviction can have a lasting impact on your future. It also can create a permanent criminal record that can hinder future opportunities. Along with protecting your legal rights, a Summerville theft lawyer may be able to help protect your record for the future. Contact an experienced attorney today for help.