Shoplifting is often confused with larceny, and shoplifting can be more serious.
In North Carolina, shoplifting is generally a Class 3 misdemeanor, the lowest-level criminal charge one can receive. But it can, under certain circumstances be a Class 1 misdemeanor, or even a felony.
Defined by N.C. Gen. Stat. 14-72.1,the elements or parts of shoplifting are: (1) Willfully (2) Concealing (3) Merchandise or goods from a store (4) not purchased (5) and the person is still on the premises of the store .
Simple enough. But shoplifting, a Class 3 misdemeanor, is often confused with larceny: To take, steal or carry away the property of another without their consent with the intent to permanently deprive the truthful owner of the property. Cases have shown that, with regard to larceny, moving an item a matter of feet can constitute a larceny, if it is intended to permanently deprive the owner.
But the difference between larceny and shoplifting is the fact that (1) the item is concealed (put in a pocket, under a coat, in a bag, hidden in a baby carriage, etc.) and (2) in shoplifting, the crime takes place on the property of the owner.
But here’s the issue. Shoplifting can be a MORE SERIOUS misdemeanor. If a person has a conviction in the past three years, and is convicted of a second shoplifting, the charge becomes a Class 2 misdemeanor. If the person has two convictions within five years and is convicted of a third, it becomes a Class 1 misdemeanor, which in the worst possible circumstances, is punishable by up to 120 days, or four months in jail.
But here’s ANOTHER complication: under certain circumstances, shoplifting, again normally a Class 3 misdemeanor, can be a FELONY.
Let’s say a person is shoplifting, but the item has an “anti-theft device.” This can be spider wrap (those things that look like spider webs and secure items in the store) or even just the package, if the package has a theft-prevention sensor. If these are removed during the shoplifting, this becomes larceny by removing an anti-theft device, a Class H felony, punishable by as much as 39 months in prison.
Same thing if a person uses an emergency exit AND the item or items have a total value of $200. This becomes a Class H felony, as well.
It’s important to understand that a simple shoplifting can become extremely complicated. This is why most attorneys and cautious non-lawyers urge people charged with ANY CRIME not to represent themselves but, rather, get good, solid representation.
At Garrett, Walker, Aycoth & Olson, we strive to help every client with all of their needs. Let the criminal lawyers at our firm assist you by contacting us for a free criminal charge consultation.