Being convicted of theft crimes in North Carolina will have serious repercussions for your job, your reputation, and your freedom. Fighting these charges starts with understanding what exactly you are charged with and what potential defenses there may be. That means having the experienced criminal defense attorneys of Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, at your side.
What Are North Carolina’s Theft Crimes?
Theft is charged in a variety of ways in North Carolina, and your exact charge will depend on the circumstances. Some of the specific theft crimes included in the North Carolina statutes are:
- Shoplifting and concealment of merchandise
- Possessing or receiving stolen goods
What are the theft crimes of Shoplifting and Concealment of Merchandise?
Shoplifting is intentionally taking merchandise from a store without paying for it. It is also illegal to conceal merchandise that you have not yet purchased while in the store. The primary difference between the two crimes is whether you leave the store with the intent to deprive the owner of its property. That means when and where you were apprehended could determine the specific crime charged. You can also be charged with a crime if you switch tags on property to try to buy it at a lower price.
A defense attorney can potentially challenge the accusations against you by arguing that you had no intent to unlawfully take or hide the property. For example, you may have mistakenly put an item in a shopping bag without first scanning it. Or you lost focus and accidentally put an item in your purse. If you purchased other things at the same time, it is easier to argue that you overlooked the allegedly shoplifted or concealed item.
What Is Robbery?
Robbery is taking property from another person, without that person’s consent, using force or threats of force. This also includes going to a bank and demanding money to which you are not entitled. Robbery is considered a theft crime and a violent crime, so the punishments are severe. Punishment will also depend on whether you used a weapon to commit the robbery. If you did not use a weapon, you can be charged with a Class G felony, which is relatively lower in severity. You can be charged with a higher Class D felony if you used a gun or other weapon to rob the victim.
Since the use of a weapon will make a difference in what class of felony you are charged with, this opens the door to a possible defense. Robbery also requires the specific intent to take property to which you know you are not entitled. If you can show that you genuinely believed the property was yours, and were simply trying to prevent another person from taking it, you may be able to contest the charges. Finally, robbery charges require the presence of the victim. Disproving this element will undermine the charges against you.
What Is Burglary?
Burglary is entering a house or building with the intent to commit a crime. That crime is usually, but not necessarily, theft. You can be charged with burglary if you were unlawfully in a home or building with intent to commit a crime other than theft. First-degree burglary occurs when people are sleeping or residing in the home or other dwelling. Second-degree burglary is when the building is not occupied.
As with other theft crimes, one possible defense against burglary is lack of intent. For example, a person who breaks into a house or other building because he or she believed someone inside needed help is not guilty of burglary. Also, you can contest the charge of first- or second-degree burglary based on whether someone was present at the time.
What Is Possessing or Receiving Stolen Goods?
This crime covers possessing, receiving, purchasing, disposing of, or concealing stolen items, whether or not the person who actually stole them has been convicted or identified. The stolen items need not be in your possession for the crime to apply. You can be convicted if the goods are located in some place over which you have control.
To be convicted of this crime, you must know they are stolen. But this knowledge may be inferred if you should have known the items were stolen based on the circumstances. Because this crime depends upon your state of mind, it may be difficult for the state to prove. You can also rebut accusations that you either possessed or exercised control over the goods.
What Is Embezzlement?
Embezzlement applies to anyone who, by virtue of their employment or position, is entrusted with money or other property. The classic example is a bank employee who steals from the bank, as distinguished from a non-employee who robs or otherwise steals the money.
Defending against this charge may depend upon your intent and knowledge of the crime. But your position of employment could also be relevant. For instance, there is a difference between embezzlement and larceny by an employee. Embezzlement requires that you are entrusted in some capacity with the money, not merely that you worked at the place from which you allegedly stole.
How Are Theft Crimes Punished In North Carolina?
North Carolina sentencing guidelines for theft crimes are complicated. If the items you allegedly stole are valued at under $1000, you may be convicted of a misdemeanor. Theft of anything valued above $1000 will likely be charged as a felony. However, stealing property from another will always be charged as a felony if you took the property in the victim’s presence (robbery) or did so after breaking and entering (burglary). Other factors may elevate the crime as well. Your exact punishment will also depend on your criminal history.
Contact Our Carteret County Theft Crimes Defense Attorney
Regardless of what theft crime you are charged with, you need serious legal defense. Call Hancock Law Firm, PLLC. We will investigate the nature of your charges and aggressively defend you against them. Contact us today for a consultation