Whether intentional or unintentional, shoplifting isn’t a so-called “victimless crime.” Shop owners are eager to press charges against customers who try to take more than what they pay for even though in some cases it was an oversight. You didn’t intend to shoplift. Sometimes, you forgot to scan something in the “self checkout” other times you didn’t see the extra item in the shopping cart. Regardless, you’re facing shoplifting charges in South Carolina. Sometimes people just make a mistake.
Under South Carolina law, there are three ways you can commit shoplifting. Shoplifting is considered:
- 1. Walking out of a store or trying to walk out of a store without paying for goods,
- 2. Changing the price of an item to get a discount the merchant doesn’t intend to give, and
- 3. Putting a product in a different container to pay a reduced price.
Each way can get you popped for shoplifting, and that is something you don’t want on your record.
When most people think about shoplifting, they imagine someone taking possession of merchandise and attempting to carry it out of the store without paying for it. Maybe it’s hiding a pair of sunglasses in a purse, or putting a piece of jewelry into a coat pocket.
Traditional shoplifting can also include:
- Taking something from one part of a store to another part of the same store with the intent of walking out with it, or
- Trying to leave with things that aren’t even for sale like bins that items are displayed in or employees’ personal items.
The main thing here is intent. And intent is pretty easy to establish under SC law.
The shoplifter shows intent by concealing the item or by simply walking out with it. Customers concealing unpurchased goods are legally presumed to be shoplifting.
Changing the price
The second way to commit shoplifting is to change the price of an item and then attempt to buy it for the lower, altered price. Let’s say something is priced $19.99 and you somehow manage to make the 1 look like it was never there. You go to the check-out counter, pay $9.99 and leave. You’ve just committed shoplifting.
Any attempt to alter, transfer or remove the price from an item and then attempt to purchase it qualifies as shoplifting. This is because you’re trying to deprive the store of the full value of the item.
You can also be charged with shoplifting if you do this as a team. Say you change the price but your friend actually makes the purchase. You’re both guilty of shoplifting.
The third way to commit shoplifting is to switch an item’s container in order to purchase the item at a lower price. Say you’re shopping in a department store. You see two vases. One is relatively inexpensive and made from plastic. The other is expensive and made of glass. You take the glass vase out of its box, put it in the plastic vase’s box and take it to the register. This is an act of shoplifting.
Like altering the price tags, switching containers deprives the shop of the full value of the item.
And no matter which of the three methods of shoplifting you commit, you’re going to have to face the penalties.
Penalties for shoplifting
If you think you’re going to just get a slap on the wrist for shoplifting an inexpensive item, think again. The penalties for shoplifting are stiff:
|Value of items||Classification||Fine||Jail Time|
|$2,000 or less||Misdemeanor||Up to $1,000||Up to 30 days|
|More than $2,000 but less than $10,000||Felony||Up to $1,000||Up to 5 years|
|$10,000 or greater||Felony||No Fine||Up to 10 years|
Important note: If you are offered a plea bargain to admit guilt in exchange for paying a small fine, beware of such a deal. It can be enticing to simply get the shoplifting matter behind you, but pleading guilty does no such thing.
Pleading guilty results in a conviction which goes on your criminal record which can impact your employment and other aspects of your life. How many employers want to hire a person with a record that suggests that you are a “thief”?
Make sure you have an attorney advising you when you’re offered a plea bargain. Really, you need an attorney as soon as you’re charged.
Getting advice about your case
Whether you’re offered a plea bargain or you intend to fight your shoplifting charge in court, the lawyers at Coastal Law want to help you through this situation. They will go over the facts of your case and help you make good decisions throughout the legal process.
Give us a call at (843) 488-5000 or use our online form. Together we can figure out how to help you get the best possible outcome.