Shoplifting Criminal Defense Lawyer in Charleston, SC
Loss prevention is a priority for many businesses, especially the larger retailers like Walmart and the department store chains.
For large companies, there is a constant struggle to lower costs and raise profits – one way to do this is to make sure that people are not walking out of the store with merchandise they did not pay for.
For some companies, aggressive loss prevention is the key – video cameras, full-time loss prevention employees, and a “zero tolerance” policy that often results in unreasonable detentions of shoppers, wrongful arrests, and lawsuits against the company.
Who gets caught in the shoplifting net? Teenagers, senior citizens, homeless people, absent-minded people, mothers with children, pretty much anyone anywhere, including innocent people who had no intention of stealing…
How Do You Get Charged with Shoplifting in Charleston SC?
SC’s shoplifting law makes it a crime to leave a store with merchandise that you did not pay for, to move merchandise from one section of the store to another, or to change the tags on merchandise to get a better price – if you have the intent to shoplift.
Wrongfully Arrested for Shoplifting in SC?
For some of SC’s retail stores, aggressive “policing” means that loss prevention employees cross the line – detaining people who had no intent to steal, or even using excessive force on customers as they are leaving the premises.
Some stores have detained customers and had them arrested for:
- Moving past the front register before paying for items, even though they did not leave the store and had an explanation;
- Putting items into a bag as they shopped, even though they intended to pay for the items;
- Walking into a store with a friend or family member who shoplifted, even though they took no part in the shoplifting; or
- Being confused at the register and not placing all items on the counter, although they were clearly suffering from dementia or other conditions that cause confusion.
If you were wrongfully arrested for a bogus shoplifting allegation, you may have a civil lawsuit against the store, loss prevention employees, or the police for false arrest, wrongful imprisonment, assault and battery, defamation, or even a federal 1983 action for deprivation of your constitutional rights.
What are SC’s Penalties for Shoplifting?
Like larceny, possession of stolen goods, and other property crimes, the penalties for shoplifting in SC are based on the dollar value of the merchandise:
- Less than $2000: up to 30 days in jail;
- More than $2000 but less than $10,000: up to five years in prison; or
- More than $10,000: up to ten years in prison.
Property Crime Enhancement in SC
SC has a “property crime enhancement” law that says, if you have two or more convictions for property crimes for which the punishment is based on the dollar value of the property, you can be charged with a 10-year felony the third time.
SC prosecutors use the property crime enhancement most often in shoplifting cases – when your job depends on your ability to get re-elected, you need to keep local business happy, right?
This means that, if you have two prior qualifying property offenses on your record, you could be facing 10 years in prison for shoplifting a 25-cent piece of candy…
SC Shoplifting Criminal Defense Attorney in Charleston
If you have been charged with shoplifting in the Charleston, SC area, get an attorney quickly who can investigate and review the evidence in your case. In many cases, we can get the charges dismissed or use a pretrial diversion program like PTI (pretrial intervention) to keep the charges off your record.
In other cases, it may make sense to try your case to a jury – if they do not have sufficient evidence to convict, if there is a good chance they will not be able to get video or other evidence admitted at trial, or if you otherwise have a solid defense to the accusations, your attorney may get your case dismissed before the trial begins or may win your trial with a jury.