Every theft is considered a crime in Columbia and elsewhere in the state. However, the law takes special precautions in protecting the property of retailers, shops, and other businesses. Stealing from these businesses will be seen as shoplifting and will bring enhanced penalties to those who violate the state’s statutes.

Notably, a person could commit the offense of shoplifting even if they never remove items from a store. The law provides a list of actions that constitute an illegal step towards shoplifting that are sufficient to support a conviction at trial. If you are facing an allegation of shoplifting, even if you never removed a product from a store, reach out to a Columbia shoplifting lawyer. Assistance from a trustworthy theft attorney could help explain the state’s rules on this matter and develop a defense that meets your specific needs.

Potential Penalties for Shoplifting in Columbia

Shoplifting is just one of the many categories of theft that the state prohibits. However, it can come with enhanced penalties that might not apply in other situations. According to South Carolina Code § 16-13-110, shoplifting includes incidents of theft that affect stores and retailers. The seriousness of the case depends upon the value of the items involved in the alleged incident. The amounts and penalties apply as follows:

  • For items with a value of less than $2,000, the offense is a misdemeanor. The penalty here cannot be more than a $1,000 fine or up to 30 days in prison.
  • When the items are worth between $2,000 and $10,000, the offense is a felony. The court can impose a fine of up to $1,000, but the maximum prison term extends to five years.
  • The most serious offenses occur when the items have a value of $10,000 or more. This is also a felony where the maximum prison term is 10 years.

A Columbia shoplifting attorney could provide more details about the levels of punishment and help devise strategies to avoid convictions.

What it Means to Remove an Item from a Store

Most people imagine shoplifting as occurring when a person takes an item from a store without paying. While this is certainly a common example, it is far from the only behavior that violates state law. The shoplifting statute provides a collection of behaviors that constitute shoplifting that does not include removing items from the store. These include:

  • Moving items from one part of the store to another
  • Working with another person to conceal items within the store
  • Altering, transferring, or otherwise changing a price tag
  • Moving items from one storage container to another

Furthermore, SC Code §16-13-120 allows courts and juries to infer that taking any of the above-listed steps constitutes an intent to steal those items. These concepts under the law make it possible for a court to convict a person of shoplifting without an item ever leaving a store. A shoplifting lawyer in Columbia could prepare a defendant for potential charges even if that person never took items outside of the boundary of the store.

Contact a Columbia Shoplifting Attorney to Protect Your Rights

Shoplifting has a reputation as being a criminal offense that affects children or youths who are trying to skirt the rules. However, even grown adults may face serious legal consequences if police make an arrest on a shoplifting charge. Every allegation has the potential to create a criminal record. More serious incidents are charged as felonies that can come with serious jail time.

A Columbia shoplifting lawyer wants to help you to avoid this outcome. They could explain the state’s shoplifting laws, identify realistic goals in your case, and fight to protect your legal rights during every court session. Contact one today to schedule a meeting.

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