Envision you have been charged with shoplifting an item from a store in South Carolina. You would probably have many inquiries running around your brain. It is vital to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to help walk you through possible defense plans and figure out possible penalties you may face if convicted.
What Is the Definition of Shoplifting in South Carolina?
Shoplifting in South Carolina goes farther than the popular delusion that shoplifting is only taking an item out of a store. Pointedly, there are three acts, when connected with the requisite intent, that constitute shoplifting. Acts that constitute shoplifting under South Carolina law (S.C. Code Ann. 16-13-110) include:
Stealing an Item: Shoplifting includes taking possession of or stealing 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.
Changing Items Displayed or Offered for Sale: A person can be convicted of shoplifting if they alter items displayed or offered for sale by the store from the container where it is displayed to another container.
Alter, Transfer, or Get Rid of 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 precondition 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 resolve 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?
In South Carolina, depending on the value of the merchandise in question, there are three distinct probable penalties for shoplifting convictions. Unsurprisingly, shoplifting merchandise with a lower value has a lower penalty. Respectively, 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 zero 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?
Fortunately for defendants, the difficulty 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 difficulty is on them to prove you are guilty.
What Court Will My Shoplifting Charge Be Prosecuted In?
Depending again on the value of the merchandise at issue, South Carolina law provides for different forums. If the merchandise in question is worth less than $2,000, 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 in question 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?
Maybe. You will want to discuss with your attorney what the best course of action is. At times, the prosecution and the store are willing to mediate dismissing charges in exchange for payment of the full retail value. However, they are not obliged 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 dissolve their charges. Explicitly, the State may agree to dissolve 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?
There is a wide array of evidence the prosecution could obtain to try to meet their burden of proof, particularly with modern advancements in technology. 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. If you are charged with shoplifting, to ensure you review all available evidence to build your defense, you will want to work closely with a criminal defense attorney.
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 appear on your record so that a law enforcement agency can check to see if you have a prior history of shoplifting. The fine will not erase the mark on your record, even if you are convicted and pay the fine,.
Contact an Experienced Columbia, South Carolina Criminal Defense Lawyer Today!
If you are charged with shoplifting at a Columbia 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 The Michael Jeffcoat Law Firm 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.