Most people can remember a time as a teenager when they or a friend were pressured to shoplift. Maybe it was something simple, like candy or a pair of socks. Maybe you got away with it. Shoplifting is typically regarded as a crime committed by teenagers, but in reality, adults shoplift more than teenagers.
If you are caught shoplifting in North Carolina, you may face serious penalties and have a long legal road ahead. A shoplifting charge can be a major headache. Depending on the value of the merchandise you’re accused of stealing, you may have to go to court, face serious jail time, and deal with exorbitant fees. And no matter what, you’ll have a criminal record – something that can make it difficult to find a job, secure housing, get a loan, and even qualify for certain types of licenses.
How Does North Carolina Define Shoplifting?
There are two definitions of shoplifting in North Carolina: 1) larceny, and 2) concealment of merchandise.
Larceny occurs when someone removes merchandise from a store with the intention of depriving the merchant or shop owner. “Concealment of merchandise” is the act of hiding or concealing merchandise while someone is still in the store.
If you are caught shoplifting before you leave, you can be charged with concealment of merchandise. Altering price tags can also be considered “concealment of merchandise.”
Larceny and concealment of merchandise are charged using the same system of penalties and classifications. If you are caught shoplifting, it is possible that you could be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the details of the incident.
Penalties for a Misdemeanor Shoplifting Charge
Most shoplifting cases will result in a misdemeanor charge. The charge will be classified differently based on prior convictions and amount of goods stolen. Misdemeanors come with the following penalties:
- Class 3 Misdemeanor (first conviction): One to 10 days in jail
- Class 2 Misdemeanor (second conviction within 3 years): Up to 30 days in jail
- Class 1 Misdemeanor (third conviction within 5 years): 1-45 days in jail
Penalties for a Felony Shoplifting Charge
Shoplifting can also result in a felony charge, but not higher than a Class H felony. The penalties for a Class H felony can include 4-25 months in jail, though in first conviction cases, the penalties are typically 4-8 months in jail.
There are a few different factors that can result in a felony charge for shoplifting:
- The merchandise totaled over $1,000
- Possession of a firearm
- Possession of antishoplifting tools
- Exiting through an emergency exit
- Tampering with security devices
- Attaching false price tags to merchandise
In all shoplifting cases, the judge who is choosing your sentence will consider prior convictions and aggravating factors.
Beyond the criminal charges you face, in North Carolina, shop owners or merchants can also file a civil lawsuit against you to receive compensation for damages or losses. You will be liable to pay between $150 and $1,000 in compensatory and consequential damages. If a minor is charged with shoplifting and brought to civil court, the minor’s parent or guardian will be liable to pay the damages.
Don’t Let a Shoplifting Conviction Derail Your Life
There are ways to fight shoplifting charges in North Carolina. Many times, people are wrongfully accused of larceny or were concealing merchandise by accident.
Unreliable witnesses and a lack of criminal intention can help you prove your innocence or get your case dropped. Plea bargains and deferred prosecution programs are also alternatives to use while negotiating your sentence. And, of course, it is possible to get a shoplifting charge expunged from your criminal record.
But you have to have someone on your team who understands North Carolina shoplifting laws and how mount a strong defense.
About the Author:
Attorney Mike Schlosser represents victims of personal injury, those charged with a crime, as well as those facing traffic charges. A former Guilford County, North Carolina District Attorney, Schlosser has been in private practice at the Law Firm of Schlosser & Pritchett since 1983 and has been a member of the North Carolina State Bar since 1973.