Shoplifting is a polite way of saying theft. There really is no distinction in the law. When you steal something, you are committing a theft. For some reason, however, many people mistakenly believe that if you steal something from a store, the charges are different or somehow ‘lighter’ than, for instance, stealing from someone’s home or yard. Actually, shoplifting includes a lot more than what you may think about when you hear the term.
Jump Ahead To
Section 16-13-110 of the South Carolina Code defines shoplifting as any of the following acts, when combined with the intent to permanently deprive the rightful owner:
Taking an item away from the store. The clearest example under the law is simply removing an item that does not yet belong to you. This is clear retail theft.
Transferring items displayed or offered for sale. If you take an item from one case and place it into another, this is a form of retail theft or “shoplifting.” For instance, say you remove a watch from a case that is labeled $250.00 and put it into a case that is labeled $25.00. This is shoplifting, even if you never leave the store with the item.
Alter, remove, or transfer price tags. Much like transferring items, it is illegal to switch, alter, remove, or in any way tamper with price labels.
What is Intent?
Although a person might commit one or more of the acts listed above, this does not automatically mean that person is guilty of shoplifting. The law is very clear that to be convicted of a crime (any crime), there must be the requisite intent. Intent means you meant to do the act. Consider a quick example:
If a person is trying on hats in a store and simply wears the hat around the store to see how it fits, then completely forgets she is wearing it, thereby leaving the store without paying, it’s technically not shoplifting. Yes, she may be arrested and charged with the crime, but if she can show that it was an innocent oversight and not intentional, then she may be able to overcome the charge. Keep in mind that she meant to put the hat on, and she meant to walk out of the store. But she did not mean to permanently deprive the store of the property. She had no intent to steal the hat. This is what makes something a crime.
Shoplifting is a Serious Offense
The law provides three levels of penalty for shoplifting in South Carolina. Whether actual shoplifting or attempted shoplifting, these are the penalties available. Keep in mind these assume a first offense. Subsequent offenses make the penalties go up significantly.
VALUE OF STOLEN ITEM CLASSIFICATION JAIL TIME FINES
Less than $2,000 Misdemeanor Up to 30 days in jail Up to $1,000 fine
$2,000 to $10,000 Misdemeanor Up to 5 years in jail Up to $1,000 fine
$10,000 and up Felony Up to 10 years in jail Up to $10,000 fine
Keeping a Shoplifting Charge Off Your Record
Even a simple first-offense for stealing a small item will go on your permanent record. This can destroy employment chances, keep a young person out of college, or even affect your ability to obtain or maintain certain professional licenses. Don’t plead guilty to a shoplifting charge until you’ve spoken with an experienced Greenville criminal defense lawyer.
Lauren Taylor Law focuses on each client’s unique situation in an effort to better understand how and why the person got in trouble. We understand that sometimes things are not what they may seem. By working closely with our clients, we are often able to develop a creative and thorough strategy for defeating criminal charges. Call or visit us online to learn more about how we can help.
South Carolina divorce attorney Lauren Taylor practices family law in Charleston and Greenville. She graduated from the Charlotte School of Law, and has been practicing for more than ten years.
Since the firm’s inception in 2012, Mrs. Taylor has helped hundreds of people navigate the uncertainties surrounding the family and criminal court process.
She has cultivated a team that ensures each case has a strategy crafted specifically to the clients needs and desires.
Her commitment to top notch service has led her to open two additional offices in the low country where she now resides with her husband Michael and her golden retriever, Buster.