Shoplifting is a crime some people view as not very serious. You may often hear it referred to as a victimless crime. But that is certainly not the stance that North Carolina takes when it comes to shoplifting.
In fact, a recent crime wave in Raleigh has law enforcement cracking down harder than ever on shoplifting in the city and around the state. Retailers have really struggled to stay in business during the pandemic. Shoplifting has been hurting their bottom line, so they’ve joined law enforcement to get tough on shoplifting and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law – especially groups that perpetrate organized retail crime.
Here’s what you need to know about the laws in North Carolina and how to defend yourself against the charges if you’ve been accused of shoplifting.
Shoplifting in North Carolina
Larceny of Goods
Larceny of goods is committed when someone takes property without the consent of the owner and has the intent to deprive them permanently of it. It is normally charged when the shoplifter has already left the store with the unpaid property. It is the most serious form of shoplifting with the most extensive penalties.
Concealment of Goods
This differs from larceny of goods because the shoplifter is caught in the store and has not yet left it. It is the less serious charge.
Penalties for Larceny of Goods
If you are charged with larceny of goods in North Carolina, there are a few things that can mark the difference between whether you are charged with a felony or a misdemeanor. For property valued at over $1,000, you will be charged with a Class H felony. For goods valued at under $1,000, you’ll likely be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor.
However, you can still be charged with a felony for items valued at less than $1,000 if:
- The property was some type of explosive or incendiary device or a firearm
- You have four or more larceny charges in your criminal history
- You took property directly from someone else
A Class 1 misdemeanor conviction can send a person to jail for up to four months, while a Class H felony can send someone to prison for as many as 39 months.
Penalties for Concealment of Goods
This can also be a misdemeanor or a felony, based on the value of the goods. Anything under $1,000 is generally a misdemeanor, while anything over $1,000 is generally a felony. Your criminal history is used in conjunction with other factors to determine your sentence.
In general, a first offense is a Class 3 misdemeanor, which could send you to jail for 10 days. A second offense may be a Class 2 misdemeanor, which can result in as many as 30 days behind bars. Using a tool or an emergency exit in the commission of the crime can be a Class H felony, which can send you to prison for up to 25 months.
Defenses to Shoplifting
A good defense is based on the specifics of your case, but some of the most defenses are:
Lack of Intent
If you didn’t mean to conceal the merchandise or deprive the owner of the items, then that can help to protect you from conviction against shoplifting charges.
If there are witnesses who can testify regarding the details of the situation in which you were accused of shoplifting to prove you innocent, then that’s a good defense.