Ashley Cannon, Attorney at Law, PLLC
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Why shoplifting charges need to be taken seriously

A shoplifting arrest can ruin the holiday season. Unfortunately, it happens. Sometimes people, distracted by all they have to do, accidentally leave or begin to leave a store while in possession of merchandise they haven't paid for. Other times, the temptation to take a little something you really need or want is too much to resist.

Retailers and law enforcement authorities take shoplifting seriously. Here in North Carolina, shoplifting is covered under larceny and theft laws. The specific charge and potential penalties depend on the value of the merchandise. For example, if the property allegedly stolen is valued at under $1,000, that's a misdemeanor and can carry a penalty of up to 45 days in jail. However, if it's over $1,000, they can face a felony charge and possibly end up behind bars for up to eight months.

It's also a crime to intentionally conceal merchandise you haven't purchased while you're still in the store. This can be a difficult crime to prove, and also one that people can easily commit unintentionally. Say you purchase eyeliner at the grocery store. You're afraid you'll forget it if you place it at the bottom of your shopping cart, so you stick it in an outer pocket of your purse, fully intending to pay for it when you get to the checkout counter. An employee notices it there and thinks you were trying to shoplift it.

The penalties aren't particularly harsh for concealment of merchandise, but there are penalties nonetheless. A first and second conviction will carry community service and/or probation. If you haven't learned your lesson and are convicted a third time, you could spend some time behind bars, depending on what the judge decides.

If a couple of people decide to shoplift some items and then sell them to make money, that's called organized retail theft. To be charged with that crime, the total value of the items must be over $1,500, and the thefts must have occurred within a 90-day period. Both the people alleged to have taken the merchandise and those who received it can face criminal charges.

Shoplifting charges need to be taken seriously. If you or a loved one has been arrested for shoplifting, regardless of whether it was a misunderstanding or an unfortunate lapse of judgment, it's essential to seek legal guidance to help mitigate the consequences.

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