Shoplifting in South Carolina – What You Need to Know

If you were recently arrested for shoplifting in South Carolina, knowing how to get out of this situation is essential. In this article, our Charleston criminal lawyers explain South Carolina’s shoplifting laws, the penalties for shoplifting in South Carolina, and how a criminal lawyer can help you deal with shoplifting charges.

What is Shoplifting in South Carolina?

South Carolina’s shoplifting laws are covered under South Carolina Code Sections 16-13-105, 16-13-110, 16-13-111, and 16-13-120. Generally speaking, a person may be guilty of shoplifting in South Carolina if they:

  1. Take merchandise out of the store with the “intent” of not paying;
  2. Alter price tags with the “intent” of paying less for the merchandise; or
  3. Swap the merchandise’s packaging into another package with the “intent” of paying less for the merchandise.

Is Shoplifting in South Carolina a Felony?

Shoplifting in South Carolina is a felony if the value of the stolen merchandise is worth more than $2,000.00. Otherwise, it is a misdemeanor.

What is the Penalty for Shoplifting in South Carolina?

The penalty for shoplifting in South Carolina depends upon the value of the stolen merchandise as set forth in Section 16-13-110 as follows:

  1. $2,000 or Less – A misdemeanor with a fine of not more than $1,000 or up to 30 days in jail.
  2. More than $2,000 but Less than $10,000 – A felony with a fine of not more than $1,000, up to 5 years in jail, or both the fine and jail.
  3. $10,000 or More –  A felony with up to ten years in jail.

In most cases, if you are convicted for shoplifting in South Carolina, the court will order you to repay the store for the value of the goods stolen. Repayment is known as “restitution.” Lastly, the store will give you “notice of trespass” to prevent you from ever shopping there again. A notice to trespass is a warning, ususally in writing, that you may not come there again. If you return to the store, you may be charged with criminal trespass, which is a misdemeanor in South Carolina.

What Does the Prosecution Have to Show to Prove Shoplifting in South Carolina?

To prove shoplifting In South Carolina, the prosecution must show that the accused “intended” to shoplift. Typically, a prosecutor will show “intent” by proving that the shopper:

  • concealed merchandise somewhere in the store away from where the merchandise was displayed for sale;
  • concealed merchandise on their person by putting it in a purse, a pocket, in a bookbag;
  • swapping price tags for a lower price tag before purchasing the merchandise; or
  • acted as a “lookout” for someone else who was shoplifting.

For the prosecution of shoplifting in South Carolina, concealment of merchandise is a key element. Specifically, Section 16-13-120 alllows a jury to “infer” that you were shoplifting. For example, evidence of concealment of merchandise on your person or among “belongings of another” creates an inference that you acted with intent to shoplift.

What are Other Consequences for Shoplifing in South Carolina?

Shoplifting in South Carolina can impact your life in many ways beyond facing criminal prosecution. Here are list of some, but not all, of the consequences you might face if you are convicted of shoplifting in South Carolina:

  1. Civil Lawsuit – In addition to pressing criminal charges against you, a business may decide to bring a civil case against you to recover the value of any stolen merchandise. Typically, though, the criminal court will require you to make restitution as described above.
  2. Loss of Job Opportunities – If your prospective employer runs a background check on you and sees a conviction for shoplifting, it will likely influence the employer’s decision to hire you.
  3. Housing Issues – Many leasing companies that manage rental properties such as homes and apartments will turn you away if you have a criminal conviction of any sort, including shoplifting.
  4. Military Service – If you have a felony shoplifting conviction, then generally speaking, you cannot join the military pursuant to 10 U.S. Code § 504. A misdeamenor shoplifting conviction does not automatically bar you from enlisting. However, the military considers your character before officially accepting you, so you may be turned down.

How Do I Get My Shoplifting Charges Reduced or Dismissed in South Carolina?

As you may already realize, a shoplifting charge can impact your life in many ways, such as losing your job, problems with professional licenses, loss of security clearances, problems at home, Ineligibility for student loans and scholarships for college, and much more. The key to getting your shoplifting charge reduced or dismissed is to mount a strong legal defense.

If you need a criminal lawyer for a shoplifting charge in Charleston or the surrounding areas, contact our office today for a free consultation.  We’re skilled criminal defense lawyes with the experience and knowledge to advise you on your best approach. Also, we can help to negotiate with the prosecutor to get your charge reduced or dismissed.

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