North Carolina’s criminal statutes make it clear that shoplifting is a serious offense. If you’re convicted of this crime, the consequences could stay with you for years to come. However, an arrest or accusation is not the same thing as a conviction. You have the right to defend yourself in court, and retaining an experienced criminal defense attorney is the first step towards doing so.
Hancock Law Firm is committed to defending the rights of the accused. You don’t have to face a charge of shoplifting alone. Let us go to work for you.
North Carolina’s Shoplifting Statutes
- Shoplifting is actually broken down into two distinct crimes, depending on when you are caught:
- Larceny of property. This is what most people think of when they hear the word “shoplifting.” Larceny will be charged if you leave a store, or attempt to leave a store, with goods you have not paid for. You will be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony. The difference depends on the value of the property, the nature of the goods stolen, and how many prior convictions you have.
- Misdemeanor larceny. If the value of the goods is less than $1,000, you will be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor. The punishment can include up to 120 days in jail, community service, fines, and restitution.
- Felony larceny. You will be facing Class H felony charges if the value of the goods stolen is over $1,000. With this, you are looking at between 4 and 25 months in prison, fines, and restitution. You can also be charged with a felony, regardless of the value of the property, if you stole from a person, you stole firearms or explosives, or you have four prior convictions.
- Concealment of property. Not as many people realize that you can be charged with a crime by hiding goods you haven’t paid for, even if you haven’t left the store. If you intentionally conceal any goods that haven’t yet been purchased, you can be arrested. That includes putting something in your pocket, under your clothing, or in something else like a backpack. It also covers someone who switches price tags and then tries to purchase the good for less money.
- Misdemeanor concealment of property. Your exact sentencing will depend largely on how many prior convictions you have. In addition to jail time, your sentence may include community service, fines, and restitution, or some combination thereof.
- First offense: Class 3 misdemeanor, punishable by up to 20 days in jail.
- Second offense: Class 2 misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days in jail.
- Third or additional offenses: Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to 120 days in jail.
- Felony concealment of property. This is charged when someone uses a lead-lined bag or similar tool to disable an anti-shoplifting device placed on a piece of merchandise. You can face a Class H felony and up to 4 to 25 months in prison if convicted.
Can A Store Legally Detain Me Based on Their Suspicions?
Store owners in North Carolina can legally detain a person if they have probable cause to believe that an individual is shoplifting. The store must be reasonable in how it detains you, and it must be for a reasonable amount of time. After being detained, you may be asked to give certain identifying information such as your name and address.
If the police are called – and most stores will call the police – they can search you or your bags for evidence and can review any surveillance footage. If property is found on you, or the footage shows you taking it, you can then be arrested.
Defenses Against Shoplifting Charges
Depending on the circumstances in your case, you have a few options for defending yourself:
- Lack of intent. Shoplifting requires the intent to commit a crime. There are cases when an item accidentally falls into someone’s bag, when the defendant overlooked the item during checkout, or even when another person places an item in a defendant’s bag or on their person. Generally, these lack the required intent for a conviction.
- Unreliable witness. If the witness against you is unreliable, has an ulterior motive, or is biased against you, his or her credibility can be attacked. Oftentimes a witness identifies the wrong person who stole the goods. Or the surveillance video – a sort of silent “witness” – could be grainy, faulty, missing, etc.
- Failure to meet the burden of proof. The prosecutor must show, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you intentionally shoplifted the item in question. Lack of evidence, unreliable evidence, contradictory witness statements, and other holes in the prosecution’s argument can raise reasonable doubt as to whether the defendant committed the crime.
- Payment or attempted payment of goods. You might have paid for the goods, but the clerk left the anti-shoplifting tag on the item that set off the alarm. Or perhaps you got home, realized you didn’t pay for an item, and went back to the store to pay for it. Either of these can happen to anyone, and they are a far cry from someone who goes into a store with the intent to steal.
- Duress. In some cases, an individual is physically coerced or threatened to steal goods for another person. If duress was present in your case, it is important to let a skilled criminal defense attorney know right away.
Contact Our Experienced Carteret County Shoplifting Attorney
To put it simply, a criminal record for shoplifting is serious. It will impact your job, your schooling, your reputation, and your freedom. It can also have a drastic effect on your ability to secure housing or future employment. For these reasons, building a credible and aggressive defense against your shoplifting charges is essential. Turn to the team at Hancock Law Firm today.