We all have a pretty good idea of what constitutes theft. Many people believe that theft and shoplifting are one in the same, but under South Carolina law, the term becomes a bit more difficult to define. For example, shoplifting can and traditionally does mean removing items from a store without paying for them, but the term can also be used to describe removing or altering an item’s price tag. Similarly, taking one item and concealing it within another item can also be classified as shoplifting. Basically, any action that is meant to defraud the merchant or business by not paying an item’s retail price is seen as shoplifting under South Carolina law.
Penalties for Shoplifting in South Carolina
Someone who is being charged with Shoplifting can face both civil and criminal penalties. Criminal penalties include fines, mandated classes, and possible jail time. As for civil penalties, a shoplifter can be sued in South Carolina civil court by the business that they attempted to defraud. The business would be suing for recovery of the stolen merchandise at the very least, but additional fines may be imposed as well. On the civil side of a shoplifting case, the value of the merchandise would be used to determine the amount of restitution to be paid to the victim. In criminal court, the value of the goods is tallied to determine the sentence. Obviously, since the penalty for shoplifting or attempting to shoplift merchandise is based on the value of the goods, a steeper penalty is levied when more expensive items are stolen. In South Carolina, there are three tiers of shoplifting charges:
- Total Merchandise Value < $2000 – While classified as a misdemeanor charge, a conviction can still lead to fines of up to $1000 and even jail time: up to 30 days.
- Value Between $2000 and $10,000 – Once the total value of the merchandise exceeds $2000, the charge becomes a felony. Although the fines are the same as a misdemeanor shoplifting charge, the penalty of jail time increases drastically, as a conviction can lead to up to five (5) years in prison.
- Value > $10,000 – Also a felony, and consistent with previous monetary fines of up to $1000, but can carry a jail sentence of up to ten (10) years.
South Carolina law states that attempting to conceal merchandise will be seen as an attempt to shoplift, full stop. This means that sometimes innocent people that have a momentary mental lapse can be accused, charged, and convicted of shoplifting, even if they did not intend to shoplift at all. Also, keep in mind that many stores have a no tolerance shoplifting policy, meaning that shoplifting an item valued at just a dollar or two can still lead to the same penalties as attempting to steal a $1500 television. Many would say that this is nonsense, but our courts must abide by what is written into law, and this is exactly the reason that if accused of shoplifting, you should contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer to handle your case.
Charleston Criminal Defense Attorney for Shoplifting Charges
Deaton Law Firm has represented many clients on criminal charges, including shoplifting. Our Charleston criminal defense attorney knows how the courts function and we know how to work with prosecutors to get our clients the best deals possible. If you or someone you know has been accused of shoplifting in South Carolina, call us today for a free consultation to discuss your options and what Deaton Law can do for you.