Shoplifting During the Holidays

Regardless of faith, most people give gifts during the holidays. In 2013, Americans spent roughly $3 trillion on holiday gifts. Unfortunately, many people cannot afford gifts for their friends and loved ones. Due to personal embarrassment and the high expectations of the season, some of them turn to shoplifting.

Here in Wake County, our Raleigh criminal defense lawyers deal with a significant uptick in shoplifting during the year’s fourth quarter. Many of these people are first-time offenders who gave into temptation at the wrong time. However, that does not excuse this activity, at least as far as prosecutors are concerned. In fact, shoplifting during any time of the year can result in serious consequences.

In North Carolina, shoplifting falls under larceny, an umbrella term which means taking and carrying another person’s property away—without the owner’s consent—and with the intent to deprive the owner of the full use of that property. Charges and penalties depend on the facts of the case, mostly the value of the shoplifted items.

If the value is $1,000 or less, shoplifting is a Class 1 misdemeanor which carries a jail sentence of up to 120 days. If the stolen item costs more than $1,000, it is a Class H felony, punishable by a prison term between four and 25 months. Bear in mind that the value is the item’s sticker price, and not its fair market value. Additionally, if the crime involved tampering with anti-theft devices, using the emergency exit, or the theft of a firearm, it is a felony, no matter how much the item costs. Raleigh criminal defense lawyers handle some ancillary matters as well, such as:

  • Willfully concealing store merchandise or switching/altering price tags, first offense – Class 3 misdemeanor (up to 30 days in jail)
  • Willfully concealing store merchandise or switching/altering price tags, second offense  – Class 2 misdemeanor (maximum 60 days)
  • Willfully concealing store merchandise or switching/altering price tags, third offense  – Class 1 misdemeanor
  • Using a tool to disable any antitheft device – Class H felony
  • Using an emergency exit door to escape while shoplifting merchandise worth at least $200 – Class H felony

Moreover, in these cases, merchants may sue the perpetrator(s) in civil court. They are entitled to financial compensation for any lost value regarding the stolen item, other consequential damages, and perhaps even punitive damages. In many cases, shoplifters are also responsible for attorneys’ fees and court costs.

At Sandman, Finn & Fitzhugh, Attorneys at Law, we understand how difficult it can be to fulfill expectations during the holiday season. However, what costs a few dollars is not worth jail or prison time, high fines, a lasting criminal record, or an expensive civil lawsuit. If you face shoplifting charges, our Raleigh criminal defense attorneys can help you either get your case dismissed or your charges/penalties reduced to help you avoid jail time and other serious penalties. For more information about shoplifting in North Carolina, call us at (919) 887-8040 or fill out the form to the right, and schedule a free consultation today.