Have you been accused of shoplifting in North Carolina? A skilled attorney can help you fight back with the right defense.
Before you even start learning about defense strategies, you need to understand the law and what you’re up against.
Shoplifting Laws and Penalties in North Carolina
North Carolina law defines shoplifting as “larceny of goods.” You can be found guilty of shoplifting if a prosecutor is able to prove that any of these actions occurred with the intent of permanently depriving a merchant from property and without the merchant’s consent.
- Concealing merchant property in your personal possession
- Changing the price tags on an item
- Switching an item’s container with another item’s container
- Removing a shopping cart from merchant property
A person accused of shoplifting in North Carolina can face both criminal and civil charges. Your criminal penalty is normally assigned according to the retail value of the item or items in question.
In most cases, a total value of under $1,000 will be charged as a misdemeanor, and a value of over $1,000 will be charged as a felony. Certain circumstances will cause the charges to be raised to a felony regardless of the total value. These situations include tampering with devices that deter shoplifting, using a firearm during shoplifting, and using an emergency exit to commit shoplifting.
Even if you are only accused of stealing a pair of shoes or a shirt, you could land in jail and be forced to pay additional fines if convicted on shoplifting charges.
Additionally, if the merchant files a civil lawsuit against you, you may be required to pay separate fines. Moreover, if convicted, the judge may require you to pay restitution to the merchant along with attorney fees and court costs. If a minor is convicted of shoplifting, the minor’s parents or legal guardians will be held responsible for damages in a civil lawsuit.
The good news is that a knowledgeable North Carolina shoplifting attorney can help you fight to get your charges reduced or dropped with the right defense to your charges.
Depending on your situation, one or more of the following defenses may help you fight your charges.
While not a defense per se, if it is your first offense and you are only accused of stealing someone of fairly low value, the judge is more likely to assign restitution and/or participation in a diversion or a deferred prosecution program instead of hitting you with jail time and high fines. Consulting with an experienced North Carolina criminal lawyer may also improve your chances of avoiding penalties.
You may be able to use this defense if you borrowed an item but forgot to return it. You could also use this defense if you attempted to return the property after an act of shoplifting occurred.
Lack of Proof
Your charges can be dropped if the prosecuting attorney is unable to find enough evidence to support the charges against you or if your lawyer is able to successfully raise doubts about that evidence.
Lack of Intent
This defense may help you if you believed that the item belonged to you or if you accidentally left the store without realizing the item was in your bag or purse. Your attorney will work with you to provide evidence of a lack of intent.
Witness reports are not always accurate. A skilled lawyer may be able to find flaws in the witness testimonies that can free you from your charges.
Even if the retail store had a security camera, mistakes can be made. You may not be the person they caught on camera or the person witnesses identified. If you have a solid alibi, you can beat a shoplifting conviction.
Kleptomania is a mental illness that causes people to have a stealing impulse. Those who suffer from kleptomania don’t necessarily plan a theft in advance and may not need the stolen items. If you can prove that you have kleptomania, you may be required to enter rehabilitation as opposed to serving jail time.
You may be able to use this defense if another person used coercion or threats to force you into committing shoplifting against your will.
These defense strategies are just the beginning. There are all kinds of ways to fight back against a criminal charge based both on the charge itself and on the specific circumstances surrounding your situation. Figuring out which one is best for you may be the difference between beating your charge or ending up in prison.