South Carolina Shoplifting Laws
Imagine you have been charged with shoplifting an item from a store in South Carolina. You would likely have many questions running around your head. It is important to hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer to help walk you through potential defense strategies and understand possible penalties you may face if convicted.
What Is the Definition of Shoplifting in South Carolina?
Shoplifting in South Carolina goes beyond the popular misconception that shoplifting is only taking an item out of a store. Specifically, there are three acts, when coupled with the requisite intent, constitute shoplifting. Acts that constitute shoplifting under South Carolina law (S.C. Code Ann. 16-13-110) include:
Taking Away an Item: Shoplifting includes taking possession of or carrying away an item from one place in a store to another place in the store where you have the intent of shoplifting. This is the most common perception of shoplifting.
Transferring Items Displayed or Offered for Sale: A person can be convicted of shoplifting if they transfer items displayed or offered for sale by the store from the container where it is displayed to another container.
Alter, Transfer, or Remove a Price Tag: A defendant may be convicted of shoplifting if they alter, transfer or remove a price tag from an item, then try to buy the item for less than full retail price. It is important to point out that you do not necessarily need to actually buy the item for the lower price. The State must simply be able to prove the defendant switched the price tags on purpose.
So what is the requisite intent for shoplifting? To convict a defendant of shoplifting, the store (through the state) must be able to prove that the person accused of shoplifting had the specific intent to shoplift. This means proving that the defendant acted with mental purpose or aim to deprive the merchant of the possession, use, or benefit of the merchandise without paying the full retail value, by acting in a manner prohibited by law.
What Are the Possible Penalties for Shoplifting in South Carolina?
As with theft charges in South Carolina, there are three different possible penalties for shoplifting convictions depending on the value of the merchandise in question. Unsurprisingly, shoplifting merchandise with a lower value has a lower penalty. Specifically, if you are charged with either shoplifting or attempting to shoplift merchandise valued at $2,000 or less and it is your first shoplifting charge, this will be classified as a misdemeanor and you will face 0 to thirty days in jail and/or a $0-$1,000 fine if convicted
If you are charged with shoplifting or attempting to shoplift merchandise valued between $2,000 and $10,000 and it is your first offense, it again will only be classified as a misdemeanor and you will face zero to five years in jail and/or a fine ranging from zero dollars to $1,000 if convicted.
Finally, if you are charged with shoplifting or attempting to shoplift merchandise valued at $10,000 or more and it is your first offense, it will be classified as a felony and you will face zero-10 years in jail if convicted.
What is the Burden of Proof For Prosecuting A Shoplifting Claim?
Luckily for defendants, the burden of proof the prosecution faces to prevail on a shoplifting conviction is very high. Like with all crimes, the prosecution must prove you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This means the burden is on them to prove you are guilty.
What Court Will My Shoplifting Charge Be Prosecuted In?
South Carolina law provides for different forums depending again on the value of the merchandise at issue. If the merchandise at issue is worth $2,000 or less, your case will be heard before a Magistrate, Summary, or Municipal Court. These courts issue no more than a 30 day jail sentence. On the other hand, if the merchandise at issue is worth more than $2,000, your case will be heard before General Sessions Court.
If I Pay For The Stolen Item, Will My Shoplifting Charge Be Dropped?
Possibly. You will want to discuss with your lawyer what the best course of action is. At times, the prosecution and the store are willing to negotiate dismissing charges in exchange for payment of the full retail value. However, they are not required to do so. Alternatively, South Carolina has available pretrial intervention and diversion programs to help individuals accused for the first time of “lower level” crimes to dismiss their charges. Specifically, the State may agree to dismiss charges against a defendant if they agree to complete the program requirements, typically consisting of community service and/or making restitution.
What Evidence Could the Prosecution Present Against Me?
Particularly with modern advancements in technology, there is a wide array of evidence the prosecution could obtain to try to meet their burden of proof. Specifically, stores are likely to have video surveillance and audio recordings of the incident. Additionally, if the store called the police about the incident, there is likely to be a police report and witness statements. You will want to work closely with a criminal defense attorney if you are charged with shoplifting to ensure you review all available evidence to build your defense.
Will Shoplifting Convictions Show Up On My Record?
South Carolina law (S.C. Code Ann. § 16-13-111) provides, “a first offense shoplifting prosecution or second offense resulting in a conviction shall be reported… to the Communications and Records Division of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.” This means that your shoplifting conviction will show up on your record such that a law enforcement agency can check to see whether you have a prior history of shoplifting. Even if you are convicted and pay the fine, the fine will not erase the mark on your record.
Contact an Experienced Greenville, South Carolina Criminal Defense Lawyer Today!
If you are charged with shoplifting at a Greenville retail store, you should contact a local attorney to help develop your defenses and ensure your rights are protected throughout the course of litigation. The experienced criminal defense attorneys at David R. Price, Jr., P.A. will help you discuss potential defense strategies to work towards acquittal, mitigation of sentence, or reduction in the severity of your charges. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.