South Carolina has a vast number of criminal offenses one can be charged with violating, some statutory (where one can actually “look them up in the code of laws”), and some at common law (essentially judge made law that has accumulated over time). As I browse through client “rap sheets” and current arrest jail logs, I frequently see “shoplifting” listed. The South Carolina statute (written law created by our state legislature) on point was last amended, as of this writing, in June of 2010, and is located at S.C. Code Ann. Section 16-13-110 (Cite as S.C. Code § 16-13-110). The law is written as follows (as of this writing – December, 2012):
“(A) A person is guilty of shoplifting if he:
(1) takes possession of, carries away, transfers from one person to another or from one area of a store or other retail mercantile establishment to another area, or causes to be carried away or transferred any merchandise displayed, held, stored, or offered for sale by any store or other retail mercantile establishment with the intention of depriving the merchant of the possession, use, or benefit of the merchandise without paying the full retail value;
(2) alters, transfers, or removes any label, price tag marking, indicia of value, or any other markings which aid in determining value affixed to any merchandise displayed, held, stored, or offered for sale in a store or other retail mercantile establishment and attempts to purchase the merchandise personally or in consort with another at less than the full retail value with the intention of depriving the merchant of the full retail value of the merchandise;
(3) transfers any merchandise displayed, held, stored, or offered for sale by any store or other retail mercantile establishment from the container in which it is displayed to any other container with intent to deprive the merchant of the full retail value.
(B) A person who violates the provisions of this section is guilty of a:
(1) misdemeanor triable in magistrates court or municipal court, notwithstanding the provisions of Sections 22-3-540, 22-3-545, 22-3-550, and 14-25-65, and, upon conviction, must be fined not more than one thousand dollars or imprisoned not more than thirty days if the value of the shoplifted merchandise is two thousand dollars or less;
(2) felony and, upon conviction, must be fined not more than one thousand dollars or imprisoned not more than five years, or both, if the value of the shoplifted merchandise is more than two thousand dollars but less than ten thousand dollars;
(3) felony and, upon conviction, must be imprisoned not more than ten years if the value of the shoplifted merchandise is ten thousand dollars or more.”
This post is not meant to give nor should it be relied upon as legal advice and it will not delve into all of the numerous intricacies, elements, defenses, and the like of the shoplifting statute; however, if you or a loved one have been arrested or contacted for questioning regarding possible shoplifting (for example: the Bluffton Police Department, Beaufort County Sheriff’s Department (BCSO), Jasper County Sheriff’s Department (JCSO), Beaufort City Police Department, etc. has made an arrest), it is often beneficial to contact a licensed South Carolina attorney that practices in the area of criminal law. While “shoplifting” a $60.00 polo style shirt from a local clothing store may be classified upon first blush as a misdemeanor above, S.C. Code Section 16-1-57 may come into play, which could change the potential sentence (depending on one’s past criminal history). S.C. Code Ann. Section 16-1-57 will be discussed at length in a future blog entry on this site, but, in short, if you or your loved one have any criminal record involving property type offenses where the penalty was in part determined by the value of the item(s) at issue, the above listed penalties (even for the “least serious misdemeanor level” shoplifting offense) may be superseded by Section 16-1-57 with a Class E Felony sentence of up to ten (10) years (a licensed South Carolina attorney should be consulted to assist in this determination). It is extremely important to be honest with your attorney regarding your complete past criminal record, no matter how small the prior conviction or guilty plea.
If you or loved one (the person under investigation or being charged with shoplifting) are anything other than a natural born or naturalized United States citizen, an immigration attorney should be consulted prior to accepting any plea deal and/or pleading guilty, or proceeding to trial, as a conviction for shoplifting could have adverse immigration consequences. State determinations of crimes of “moral turpitude” (example: if South Carolina considers an offense a crime of moral turpitude via case law) are not necessarily determinative of federal determinations of crimes of moral turpitude, and certain offenses by their very nature can have negative immigration consequences. At Lee Law Firm, LLC, one of the first things we determine during initial client interviews is whether or not our clients are anything other than a natural born or naturalized United States citizen.
If you would like to speak with an attorney from our firm concerning your South Carolina criminal charge, whether it is shoplifting (misdemeanor or felony level) or another state level criminal offense, please call us at (843) 474-0614 or (800) 996-0683. We would be honored to speak with you.
Lee Law Firm, LLC is a South Carolina based law firm that advocates for and counsels clients throughout South Carolina and its Low Country, primarily in Beaufort and Jasper counties (including Hilton Head Island, Bluffton, Daufuskie Island, Ridgeland, Callawassie Island, Okatie, Hardeeville, and Beaufort).
Our practice areas are limited to Criminal Law (including, but not limited to, South Carolina felony charges, South Carolina misdemeanor offenses, and state level ICE Holds), and Family Law (including, but not limited to custody, contested divorce, uncontested divorce, alimony, equitable distribution, child support, visitation, separation agreements, and Guardian ad Litem appointments). The firm handles other matters (non-Family and/or Criminal Law) only on a case-by-case basis.