When you hear people talk about shoplifting from retail stores, it seems like something that happens on a regular basis. It might not sound like a big deal, however, in North Carolina, theft charges of any kind are serious. If you are accused of concealing goods while in a store without paying, swapping tags to pay less for an item, or deactivating anti-theft devices, you will likely face shoplifting charges. Such offenses can lead to fines, community service, incarceration, and other penalties.
Shoplifting Laws in NC
North Carolina has many laws prohibiting theft. Shoplifting in NC can lead to theft charges based on multiple statutes, including:
Larceny of Property (North Carolina General Statutes [NCGS] §14.72)
This law applies to shoplifting charges after leaving a store or having attempted to leave the store. Once you walk out the door or off the premises of the store without having paid for the items, you will be charged with larceny. If you face accusations of stealing goods worth less than $1,000, you can be charged with a class 1 misdemeanor. If you are accused of stealing goods worth more than $1,000, then you may face charges for a Class H felony. However, if you are accused of stealing from a person, stealing an explosive substance or firearm, or you have four prior convictions, then you will be charged with a felony, no matter the value of the goods.
Concealment of Merchandise (NCGS §14-72.1)
North Carolina shoplifting laws apply to your conduct before you leave a store’s premises. If you intentionally conceal any goods or merchandise of any store, that you did not purchase while still on the store’s premises, you will be charged with a class 3 misdemeanor for a first offense. In other words, if you hide merchandise within your own clothing, or in some other way, in preparation of stealing the concealed goods, you can be arrested and charged with shoplifting.
You also can be charged with a misdemeanor if you intentionally transfer price tags from one good to another in order to be able to buy something at a lower price. A second offense will be charged as a class 2 misdemeanor, and a third or subsequent offense within five years will be a class 1 misdemeanor. Additionally, if you use a lead- or aluminum-lined bag, article of clothing, or similar device to prevent an antishoplifting device from working, you will be charged with a class H felony.
Penalties for Shoplifting in North Carolina
The potential penalty for shoplifting depends on the level of the charge against you. You may be charged with a class H felony, or class 3, 2, or 1 misdemeanor depending on your conduct, the value or type of the property, and your criminal history.
Shoplifting punishments for misdemeanors are based on North Carolina’s misdemeanor sentencing chart. This chart looks at the class of the misdemeanor and your prior record level. Based on these factors, the potential jail time you face is:
- Class 1 misdemeanor – One to 120 days
- Class 2 misdemeanor – One to 60 days
- Class 3 misdemeanor – Fine only, or one to 20 days
For low-level larceny offenses, you may be able to avoid jail time and face a shoplifting fine, in addition to probation, community service, and other community-based penalties. It often depends on the discretion of the judge. If unable to get your charges dismissed, the Charlotte shoplifting lawyers at Randall & Stump, PLLC will fight for you to receive a mitigated penalty, including one without any incarceration.
Shoplifting penalties for felonies are much more serious. Depending on your criminal history, you may be unable to escape incarceration, if convicted of a class H felony. North Carolina’s felony sentencing chart looks at the offense class and your prior record level, though you may be placed into one of six levels. For a class H felony, you face between four and 25 months in prison.
To learn more about the specific statutory penalties you face for a misdemeanor or felony shoplifting charge, call the Charlotte shoplifting lawyers at Randall & Stump, PLLC right away.
Defending Against Shoplifting Charges
By working with a shoplifting attorney, you are in a better position to defend yourself against larceny or concealing merchandise charges. A lawyer will carefully review the allegations and evidence against you to determine the strongest possible defense.
Some common defenses to shoplifting charges are:
- You lacked the necessary intent to commit the crime.
- The witnesses to the alleged crime are unreliable, biased, or have an ulterior motive for accusing you.
- You attempted to return the property after inadvertently leaving the store with it.
- The prosecutor lacks sufficient evidence to prove you committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
- There has been a mistake of identity, and you were not the person shoplifting.
- You acted under duress.