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When you think of shoplifting, felony-level crimes probably aren’t the first thing that comes to mind. Instead, it’s likely images of teenagers sliding makeup or small clothing items into pockets and handbags instead.

Well, one group of five local women recently learned the hard way that shoplifting can indeed be a felony-level crime. The group of women engaged in organized retail theft with a shopping spree at a North Carolina mall, stealing products worth thousands of dollars from multiple stores.

Basic shoplifting in the state of North Carolina is a misdemeanor offense. When the value of the property stolen goes above a certain amount, shoplifting turns into a felony. 

So when does misdemeanor shoplifting turn felony? Good question. Let’s start with what the law says about theft crimes. 

North Carolina Laws on Organized Retail Theft

As in most states, North Carolina has laws covering a wide array of theft crimes. These can range from normal shoplifting, or retail theft, up to auto theft and higher. Organized retail theft is one of the more severe forms of retail theft and carries one of the highest penalties.

According to state law, a person engaged in organized retail theft is defined as one who:

“Conspires with another person to commit theft of retail property from retail establishments… aggregated over a 90-day period, with the intent to sell that retail property for monetary or other gain, and who takes or causes that retail property to be placed in the control of a retail property fence or [another] person in exchange for consideration.”

Additionally, you may be charged with organized retail theft if you knowingly accept property that has been stolen in accordance with the above law.

Furthermore, even when you aren’t actually involved in the commission of the crime, if you are proven to have participated in the planning (in other words, you’ve conspired) to commit one you may be charged in North Carolina. 

Misdemeanor Theft vs Felony Theft in North Carolina

Retail theft here is a misdemeanor crime at the basic level. When the stolen property is valued at less than $1,000 and no other components or charges were added, you face low-level consequences. 

When Your Misdemeanor Theft Bumps to a Felony Charge

However, when any of the following circumstances are met, charges bump to a felony-level are:

  • The value of the property was above $1,000
  • The person who took the property was an employee
  • The property stolen was an explosive device or firearm
  • The crime of organized retail theft was committed

Organized Retail Theft is Never Considered a Misdemeanor Offense

Organized retail theft in this state is an automatic felony. If you are charged with this crime, it will take a skilled North Carolina criminal defense attorney to ensure the best outcome in your case. Even the felony level for this crime can fluctuate. 

The factors that affect the gravity of this charge can include, but are not limited to:

  • The value of the property stolen
  • The role a person played in the crime
  • A person’s knowledge of the crime

Penalties for Organized Retail Theft in NC

At the lowest level, organized retail theft in North Carolina is a Class H Felony. This means that the value of property stolen was over $1,500 but less than $20,000. Remember, a person who receives property they know to or have reason to believe is stolen may also be found guilty, too. 

The penalty for a Class H Felony in North Carolina is between 5 and 20 months in jail. The actual sentence will further depend on the severity of the crime (whether there were any aggravating factors, and so on), and your past criminal history.

For organized retail theft where the value of the property exceeds $1,500, the crime is a Class G Felony, and a conviction could cost you nearly 3 years in prison. 

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