Many people, especially youth, think it is a harmless thrill to take something from the store without paying for it. However, there is a reason many shops in South Carolina and elsewhere display signs warning customers that shoplifting is a crime and that shoplifters will be prosecuted. You may wonder how much trouble you could face if you are accused of shoplifting.

The South Carolina Legislature has provided information on the penalties for shoplifting and related crimes. Theft from a retail store or establishment is usually considered a misdemeanor, although shoplifting becomes a felony if the value of the alleged stolen items exceeds $2,000. You can face the following consequences if you are convicted of shoplifting:

  • A $1,000 fine or up to 30 days in jail if the property value is less than $2,000
  • A $1,000 fine and/or up to five years’ imprisonment if the value is more than $2,000 and less than $10,000
  • Up to 10 years in prison if the value is $10,000 or more

You also might not realize that shoplifting encompasses more than just taking an item from the store. Transferring a product to a different box with a cheaper price tag is also shoplifting. Additionally, you can be criminally charged for tampering with or removing a product’s label or anti-theft device without buying the product, or for altering or transferring a price tag, label, signage or other markings that indicate the price of an item. Returning an unpaid-for product to the store with the intent of getting money back is also a prosecutable offense.

Since criminal charges require an experienced defense, this information should not replace the advice of a lawyer.