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Can You Go to Jail for Shoplifting in South Carolina?

Can You Go to Jail for Shoplifting in South Carolina?

Can You Go to Jail for Shoplifting in South Carolina?

Facing criminal charges for shoplifting can fill you with shock and dread. It isn’t uncommon for good people to find themselves on the wrong side of the law in South Carolina after an act of carelessness or desperation, from high schoolers daring each other to commit theft to single parents struggling to make ends meet in today’s economy.

Whatever your situation, it’s crucial to secure legal representation as soon as possible to avoid serious penalties in criminal court. Keep reading to learn more about shoplifting charges in South Carolina and how to defend against a conviction.

South Carolina Shoplifting Laws

In South Carolina, shoplifting is a property crime codified under SC Code § 16-13-110. It’s considered a form of larceny, which involves unlawfully taking another person's product with the intent to permanently deprive them of it. All shoplifting charges, such as theft from stores, retail establishments, and other businesses, are treated similarly in criminal court and generally carry the same penalties if convicted.

As such, any individual who engages in shoplifting can be arrested and prosecuted for the crime and may face time behind bars if convicted. Whether you simply weren’t thinking or felt that you had no other options before committing the offense, it’s crucial to consult with a trusted criminal defense attorney who can fight to get the charges against you dropped or dismissed.

You may be surprised to learn that shoplifting isn’t limited to the physical act of removing an item from a store or business without payment. The following acts can also result in shoplifting charges in South Carolina:

  • Removing labels or price tags from items or products
  • Attempting to buy a product for less than its retail price
  • Transferring items into bags with items purchased from other stores

While there are various ways to shoplift, it’s safe to assume that any act intended to defraud the store or business owner is considered shoplifting in South Carolina.

Is Shoplifting a Felony or a Misdemeanor?

Shoplifting in South Carolina can range from misdemeanor charges to felony charges. This is typically dependent on the value of the stolen items and any aggravating factors that could apply, such as having prior offenses or committing more than one offense (like fraud or trespassing).

Penalties for Shoplifting in South Carolina

Criminal penalties for shoplifting generally depend on the total value of the stolen items. This also affects whether the offense is considered a misdemeanor or a felony.

Shoplifting Misdemeanors

Shoplifting is considered a misdemeanor in South Carolina if the merchandise is valued at less than $2,000. Penalties include up to 30 days in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000.

Shoplifting Felonies

There are two ways that shoplifting can be charged as a felony in South Carolina:

  1. Merchandise value falls between $2,000 and $10,000 – This is a felony offense punishable by 5 years in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000.
  2. Merchandise value exceeds $10,000 – This is a felony offense punishable by up to 10 years in jail and possible fines.

5 Legal Strategies to Defend Against Shoplifting

You’ve likely heard the phrase, “innocent until proven guilty” in criminal defense. This is known as the burden of proof, meaning that the responsibility of proving that the crime was committed lies with the prosecutor, not the defendant. For the defendant to be convicted of shoplifting, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the shoplifting offense in question. To accomplish this, they must prove that the act involved two elements:

  1. Intentional concealment or possession of item(s) available for purchase, but not yet purchased; and
  2. Permanent deprivation of item(s) from a store or business owner without payment.

While there are various strategies to defend against shoplifting charges, it’s imperative to consult with a trusted criminal defense lawyer first, as they can use their in-depth knowledge of criminal law to determine the best legal approach to employ based on the unique circumstances of your case. Consider these common legal strategies to defend against shoplifting charges:

  1. Insufficient evidence – Lack of evidence is a common defense against shoplifting charges. This defense argues that the prosecution does not have enough evidence to prove that the accused individual is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. To establish this legal defense, an attorney must present evidence that casts serious doubt on any claims made by prosecutors or law enforcement.
  2. Lack of intent – Another strategy is to prove a lack of intent on part of the defendant. If they had no intent to shoplift, it may be possible to get the charges dropped or reduced. For example, if the defendant had no intent to shoplift, but accidentally left the store with merchandise or mistook the item(s) for theirs, then it may be possible to get the charges dropped or reduced.
  3. Procedural violations – Police and law enforcement must comply with certain criminal procedures when making arrests or charging people with criminal offenses. Store security officers must also follow certain protocols when performing an arrest. If the police fail to follow protocols or violate the defendant’s rights during the arrest, the charges may get reduced or dismissed.
  4. Lack of concealment – This defense argues that the accused didn’t intend to steal the item because they made no effort to conceal it. Strong evidence is required to use this strategy effectively, such as witness statements or security footage. A qualified defense lawyer can also argue that the defendant was simply absent-minded and forgot to pay for the item, planned to pay at a later time, or the offense in question was the result of confusion or misunderstanding at some point during the sale.

Fiercely Advocating for Your Rights

Since 2004, our trusted legal advocates at the Law Office of James R. Snell, Jr., LLC have committed themselves to protecting good people from devastating consequences. Whether you were provoked to make a poor decision or simply made an honest mistake, our experienced criminal defense firm believes that everyone deserves a second chance.

From DUI defense to sex crimes to white-collar offenses, our Lexington criminal defense attorney can fight fiercely to defend your hard-earned reputation while keeping your best interests at heart. Turn to a lawyer you can trust to prioritize your unique needs and goals while guiding your legal steps with determination and integrity.

Failing to seek representation while facing criminal charges can have disastrous consequences. Contact us online to discuss your case with our Lexington criminal defense lawyer.


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