If you scoffed at the seriousness of a shoplifting offense, you wouldn’t be the only person. These crimes, which are a form of theft, are the stuff of after school specials and sitcoms. Usually, the media portrays shoplifting as the kind of crime that results with a call to mom and dad or a stern talking-to from the security officer or store manager.
Many people in North Carolina learn every year that shoplifting offenses are actually a serious crime in this state. Far from being a laughing matter or a youthful offense that the courts will toss out, shoplifting can impact your future for many years to come. If you’ve been accused of shoplifting, you need to educate yourself about the likely consequences.
Shoplifting doesn’t only mean taking something out of the store
The definition of shoplifting most people use refers to the practice of hiding an object and leaving the store without paying for it. There are many approaches to this process. Some people hide items inside their purse, stroller or clothing. Others may change their clothing into new articles of clothing and walk out without paying. These acts often only take a few seconds, making people think there’s little risk involved.
In fact, retailers often have specialists who know all about loss prevention and they look for warning signs of potential theft. The state’s Department of Public Safety even has a special website to help retailers avoid or reduce shoplifting losses in their stores. However, shoplifting charges don’t only happen to those who steal from a retailer.
Any attempt to hide an item, even if you never leave the store, could result in criminal charges. So could placing one item inside another or changing tags on any merchandise. If store staff see someone hiding or tampering with merchandise, that alone could be enough to bring criminal charges.
The penalties for shoplifting can be serious
As with most cases of theft or larceny, the law on shoplifting considers the value of the stolen items. Merchandise worth less than a thousand dollars will result in a class 3 misdemeanor for a first offense. First offenses often have any jail time waived, but community service may be necessary as a result.
If someone faces a second charge related to shoplifting less than $1,000 worth of merchandise in a three year period from the first conviction, the second charge gets upgraded to a Class 2 misdemeanor. Third and subsequent offenses in a five year period can result in Class 1 misdemeanor.
Items that are worth more than $1,000 could result in felony larceny charges, which are a Class H felony. That could mean several months in jail or up to 25 months if there’s a previous offense on your record.