Just before 10:00 am on Monday, April 24, 2017, an armed man robbed a bank. The State reported the incident, and online you can see a man in a heavy sweatshirt, hood up, face darkened, possibly covered, thick work man’s gloves on. In the picture and video, he leans over the counter. He is intimidating. He has a gun. He successfully robs the bank and now the police are searching for him
The image is startling and scary. That said, these types of crimes are minimal, but make their debut in the news because of their newsworthy images and because of their rarity. In fact, robbery accounts for only 135 of all arrests made in Richland County in 2015, according to the most recent South Carolina Law Enforcement Unit (SLED) crime statistics report. Robbery’s unarmed other half: larceny, by far exceeds the number of robberies, and by far is probably one of the most unreported crimes, too, meaning that the number of arrests in no way accounts for all the acts of larceny, particularly one very specific type: shoplifting. According to the same SLED report, larceny/theft topped the list of most arrests in Richland County at 2,220 arrests. The second closest cause of arrest was drug and narcotic offenses at 1,483 arrests.
There are some larceny cases that make the headlines in Richland County. In January 2017, a woman was arrested for shoplifting cellphones and that same month a couple was wanted for stealing $2,000 worth of merchandise from Belk, a retail store. Smaller cases of larceny, particularly that type mentioned above: shoplifting, occur on a day-to-day basis by people like you and me, some of them are professionals, others are students, and others can be just about anyone from any socio-economic and cultural background. (Think: Winona Ryder, rich and famous, she was still caught for shoplifting.) Right before our eyes but unnoticed by us, they snatch something from a shelf or hanger and miraculously, undetected, it ends up under a jacket or in a purse. (Remember, too, concealing is also considered shoplifting, not just walking out the door with an unpaid item.) But then comes the day they do get caught, and their life turns upside down.
Consequences of shoplifting are unforgiving, particularly to the employed or the student. Shoplifting as a crime of dishonesty, or more commonly known as a crime of moral turpitude, can cost someone not only jail time and fees, among other legal consequences, but prevent them from getting particular jobs, maintaining certain professional licenses or security clearances, winning internships, qualifying for federal and state financial aid, among other possible hardships.
Shoplifting, though it seems like a small and almost inoffensive act to commit, is still a criminal act. The consequences can morph from something seemingly little to something out of control and destructive. It can positively have a negative impact on the direction of your career in specific, or life in general.
SHOPLIFTING v. KLEPTOMANIAC: CRIME or DISEASE
There are shoplifters and there are kleptomaniacs. Shoplifters can be professionals, skilled thieves who have specialized skills, or they can be addicts, persons who steal to support their addiction to drugs. Then there are Kleptomaniacs, who have an “illness” and steal because of a psychological compulsion. Arguably, a good portion of shoplifters are kleptomaniacs.
In that sense, this disease is treated through punishment. However right or wrong it is, shoplifting is still a crime, and unlike most other “types” of larceny, proof is not needed that you intended to leave the place never to return the item, mere concealing it is proof enough for the commission of the crime.
TIPS TO BE CONVICTION-FREE
There’s not much you can do to remain conviction free apart from not shoplifting. But that’s much easier said than done because, as said, shoplifting may very well be an illness. According to the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention (NASP), the only real way to shoplifting is to identify and understand why you do it in the first place.
- For the skilled, professional shoplifters, their purpose is money-making.
- For the addict, their purpose is support for their addiction.
- For the general population, which makes us the majority of the 2,000+ arrests in Richland County, the purpose isn’t really even a purpose but an impulse.
- Failure to resist recurrent impulses to steal, even when those items are not needed for personal reasons; and
- Pleasure from the act of getting away with something (and essentially getting something for “free”).
Professional help is required to address the first reason while self-discipline is required to overcome the second reason. NASP’s website provides a wealth of resources, including self-help opportunities, that can help address both of these reasons, including a database of counselors who can help.
In the end, tips to remain conviction free are very basic:
- If you are a habitual shoplifter, one who can’t control your urge to shoplift, seek professional help.
- If you are of the other type, one who shoplifts for the thrill of it, control yourself.
GETTING CAUGHT, GETTING LEGAL COUNSEL
If you do shoplift, or if you got caught before reading this, you need to immediately contact a reliable and experienced criminal defense attorney if your reputation matters to you. You are not just looking at a simple slap on the wrist, but a $1,000 fine and/or up to 30 days in jail, if convicted. You need legal representation, and you want a criminal defense attorney in Richland County who knows the system, is resourceful, and has the competence to get matters resolved favorably.
In cases where you already have a conviction, there may be measures a criminal defense attorney can take to clean your record, especially for first time offenders. For instance, were your Miranda Rights violated? If so, then the case could be thrown out. A skilled Richland County criminal defense lawyer will know what to investigate, who to talk to, how to argue your case. Contact the Michael Jeffcoat Firm today to discuss your legal options.
Mr. Jeffcoat, a native of the Columbia area, founded the law firm in 1999. Mr. Jeffcoat got his undergraduate degree at Wofford College in 1994, majoring in Political Economy and Philosophy, and then went to the University of South Carolina School of Law, where he received his J.D. in 1997. After working in two law firms following his graduation from law school, Jeffcoat ventured out on his own to launch The Jeffcoat Firm in March of 1999.