Shoplifting is a serious crime that involves taking goods from a store or concealing items while at a store. The penalties for shoplifting can be severe, especially if the merchandise involved is valuable. A shoplifting conviction can have long-lasting negative effects on a person’s future, including their employment, housing, and educational activities. It’s crucial to understand the gravity of the situation and take immediate action if you’re facing a shoplifting charge. 

When facing shoplifting charges, it is crucial to enlist the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Shoplifting charges are not to be taken lightly, as a conviction results in a permanent criminal record. At Greene Wilson Crow & Smith, our criminal defense attorneys have a wealth of experience in successfully defending clients against a range of criminal charges, including shoplifting. 

North Carolina’s Shoplifting Laws

Under North Carolina’s shoplifting law, shoplifting is considered the larceny or theft of goods or merchandise, and there are two main types of shoplifting. Concealment of goods is a form of shoplifting that happens when a person is caught in a store concealing goods. For example, if someone hides makeup in their purse to steal it and has not yet passed the cash registers to leave, they could be charged with shoplifting. Many large retail stores hire loss prevention officers who monitor security cameras to catch shoppers stealing while they’re still inside the store. 

Another common form of concealment of goods happens when shoppers try to remove anti-theft devices from products and dressing rooms or restrooms to conceal the items. Walking out a store’s doors with merchandise without paying for it is also considered larceny, or theft, of goods. 

Finally, organized retail theft happens when one person conspires with another person to steal merchandise from a store valued at $1,500 or more within 90 days. With this type of charge, prosecutors need to prove an additional element, that the defendants intended to sell the merchandise after they stole it. As with any crime, prosecutors must prove every element of the shoplifting beyond a reasonable doubt to convict the defendant, including:

  • The defendant willfully concealed
  •  Merchandise or goods
  •  Without authority
  •  Without having purchased the goods or merchandise, and
  •  While still on the premises of the store

Misdemeanor Shoplifting Charges in North Carolina

The majority of shoplifting charges are misdemeanor-level crimes. Under North Carolina law, prosecutors will bring misdemeanor shoplifting charges when the stolen goods are valued at less than $1,000. Those charged with a first offense will likely face Class 3 misdemeanor shoplifting charges. 

Defendants charged with shoplifting with prior convictions within the last three years will face more serious Class 2 misdemeanor charges. If the defendant has two prior convictions for shoplifting within the previous three years, prosecutors will charge the crime as a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Federal Shoplifting Charges

Shoplifting charges can be classified as felony charges in certain conditions. If the value of the allegedly stolen goods exceeds $1,000, the defendant will face felony charges. Additionally, when the defendant used more complex methods of stealing goods, such as fraud, deception, or organized retail theft, they would be more likely to face felony charges. 

Prosecutors will also consider other related criminal charges, such as the possession of shoplifting tools. Ultimately, the prosecuting attorney will decide whether to charge the crime as a misdemeanor or felony based on the circumstances and evidence involved in the case. 

Overzealous prosecutors often charge the defense with felony-level shoplifting when they don’t have the evidence to prove that a felony occurred. When you work with Greene Wilson Crow & Smith, you can rest assured that we will work diligently to negotiate the best outcome possible. If you’ve been overcharged, we can have the charges against you dismissed or reduced to a low-level misdemeanor charge.

The Penalties of Shoplifting 

The penalties for shoplifting depend on several factors, including the specific type of shoplifting charge. A first-offense charge of concealment of goods usually involves a penalty of 24 hours of community service. A second offense within three years usually carries a penalty of at least 72 hours of community service. A third offense within five years is punishable by a minimum of 11 days in jail. The penalties for larceny of goods are even more serious. A first-time conviction of stealing goods valued at $1,000 or less will be charged as a Class 1 misdemeanor, with penalties of up to 45 days in jail. When the value of the goods or services is estimated to be more than $1,000, the defendant can face more serious Class H felony charges, which include a jail sentence of between four and eight months. 

Organized retail theft is also considered a Class H felony. However, when the value of the stolen merchandise is over $20,000, prosecutors can bring Class G felony charges punishable by 8 to 31 months in prison. In addition to facing criminal penalties, the store owner may seek damages by filing a civil lawsuit against you. Victims of theft can pursue damages in the value of the allegedly stolen merchandise, punitive damages, and compensation to the victim for their attorney fees and costs.

Why You’ll Benefit from Hiring an Experienced Attorney

The penalties for shoplifting charges can be severe, and if convicted, defendants will have a permanent criminal record. Hiring an attorney as soon as possible can help you protect yourself and develop an effective legal defense strategy. 

At Greene Wilson Crow & Smith, we spend extensive time getting to know our clients and familiarizing ourselves with every aspect of their cases, providing each case with the attention it deserves. Communication with our clients is essential to us, and we will work diligently to keep you informed of any updates to your case and answer your questions so you can make informed decisions. 

Reach Out to Our Criminal Defense Attorneys Today

Greene Wilson Crow & Smith represents clients throughout North Carolina facing all types of theft crimes, including shoplifting. If you’ve been charged with shoplifting in North Carolina, don’t hesitate to contact Greene Wilson Crow & Smith to learn more about how we can defend you and your rights.