A recent story of a North Carolina woman’s alleged larceny sheds light on why it is so important to have alternatives to the typical punishments for stealing. Moreover, it is a reminder that there are all kinds of reasons why someone might shoplift, and that sometimes a little bit of kindness and understanding can go a long way.
The Desperate Situation a North Carolina Mother Found Herself In
It started when two police officers arrested Theresa West, 44, of the Hillsborough area for stealing from a Food Lion grocery store. The store contacted police saying that someone had stolen groceries with a value of $36, including bread, pasta, spaghetti sauce, and salad mix. The police reviewed surveillance video and found a license plate number, which they used to track down West at her mobile home.
However, When Corporal Keith Bradshaw and Officer Candace Spragins confronted West, she told them she had recently experienced a brain injury, which prevents her from working. Worse, she needed food for her three adopted children.
Lest they think she was giving them some kind of trumped up sob story, she invited the officers to inspect her kitchen. They found nearly bare shelves in the refrigerator and freezer. West said that neither she nor the children had eaten in three days.
Her situation didn’t stop the officers from doing their job, and they took West back to the police station for booking. However, when she posted bail and returned home, she found over $140 in food provided by Bradshaw, Spragins, and the magistrate who booked her.
As Bradshaw stated in an interview, “Sometimes you gotta go that extra mile and look for other ways of helping and improving your community and the quality of life for the people in the community.”
Typical Penalties Associated with Shoplifting in North Carolina
North Carolina law considers shoplifting a larceny charge. Larceny is defined as taking another person’s property against their will with no intent of returning the items to the owner.
The degree of punishment for larceny depends on the total retail value of the items in question. Most shoplifting crimes are misdemeanors unless the total value exceeds $1,000, at which point the charge is raised to a felony. Other specific shoplifting circumstances, such as stealing a firearm, may also warrant a felony charge. However, the majority of shoplifting cases fall under the following legal classifications for misdemeanors.
Class 3 misdemeanor: first time offense for concealing merchandise or changing price tags. Results in 1-10 days of jail.
Class 2 misdemeanor: second offense within three years. Results in a maximum of 30 days in jail.
Class 1 misdemeanor: third offense within five years. Results in one to 45 days of jail.
Class H felony: using shoplifting tools to prevent detection, using emergency exit of a store, or using a fake price tag. Resulting in 4-25 months in jail.
Thankfully, certain individuals convicted of larceny can avoid these penalties by participating in a diversion program.
Alternative Consequences Are Another Way to “Help and Improve” the Community
When a person like West commits a crime of necessity, a diversion program can be a much better solution than punitive fees or jail time. Diversion programs involve training, restitution, and community service instead of punitive sentencing. In the absence of a diversion program, a plea bargain may be negotiated with the prosecution for a lighter sentence.
To get help for a shoplifting charge, contact an experienced North Carolina criminal defense attorney. A skilled lawyer will have the knowledge to form a solid defense, request diversion programs, or secure a plea bargain on your behalf. Reach out today to discuss your options.
About the Author:
Jan Elliott Pritchett?is Managing Partner at the Law Firm of?Schlosser & Pritchett?and one of North Carolina’s top rated criminal defense attorneys. With a practice dedicated 100% to litigation, Mr. Pritchett protects the legal rights of clients who have been charged in federal and state criminal matters, as well as DUI/DWi, motor vehicle accidents, personal injury, and traffic violations. In practice since 1995, Mr. Pritchett has earned a reputation as a highly talented and fearless lawyer, being listed among the state’s “Legal Elite” and recognized as one of the Top 100 DWI Lawyers in North Carolina by the National Advocacy of DUI Defense.? He currently serves as the Co-Chairman of the North Carolina State Board of Legal Specialization, Criminal Law Specialty, and Vice-Chairman of the North Carolina Bar Association, Criminal Justice Section.