When it comes to shoplifting and retail theft charges in South Carolina, it’s all too easy to assume the two are one and the same.

They sound similar enough, so surely there cannot be much of a difference—right?

The two charges are often confused with each other. However, shoplifting and retail theft are separate charges for a reason.

In South Carolina, the implications and consequences of each one are far from the same.

It is important that you know the difference in the unfortunate event you find yourself faced with either of these charges.

Shoplifting Basics

There are several different ways to commit shoplifting in South Carolina. You can be charged with shoplifting if you:

  • Take store merchandise from one person to another, from one area of a store to another, or away from a retail store with the intention of not paying the full retail value to the merchant.
  • Alter, remove, or replace a price tag in an attempt to pay less than the full retail value.
  • Transfer any merchandise for sale from its display container to any other container with the intent to deprive the merchant of the full retail value.

Shoplifting Penalties

Depending on the value of the merchandise taken, the penalties for shoplifting vary:

AmountType of OffenseCourt Prosecuted InPenalties
$2,000 or lessMisdemeanorMagistrate’s or Municipal courtFine of up to $1,000 or 30 days in jail
$2,000-$10,000 Misdemeanor General Sessions courtFine of up to $1,000 and/or up to 5 years in jail
$10,000 or moreFelonyGeneral Sessions courtUp to 10 years in jail

Retail Theft Basics

Consider retail theft as a step above shoplifting.

It’s basically shoplifting with the further intent to either sell stolen goods for monetary gain or to transfer stolen goods to someone else who will then sell them for a profit. Like shoplifting, there are three different ways to commit retail theft. You can be charged with retail theft if you:

  • Steal retail property with a value of at least $2,000 over a 90-day period with the intent to sell the property for monetary or other gains.
  • Conspire with another person to commit theft of retail property with a value of more than $2,000 over a 90-day period with the intent to sell the property for monetary or other gains.
  • Knowingly receive, possess or sell retail property that has been stolen. You can be found guilty of this offense regardless of whether anyone is convicted of property theft.

Retail Theft Penalties

The penalties for retail theft are divided into two categories that are based on whether you have past offenses. These penalties are:

CategoryType of OffensePenalties
1st offenseMisdemeanorUp to $5,000 in fines and/or up to 3 years in jail
2nd and subsequent offensesFelonyUp to $10,000 in fines and/or up to 20 years in jail

Shoplifting vs. Retail Theft: Know the Difference

Be aware that there are several differences between shoplifting and retail theft charges.

1. Retail theft can be committed simply by conspiring to commit retail theft.

2. Shoplifting, on the other hand, requires an action for you to be charged

The penalties for retail theft are also harsher than those for shoplifting. Charges depend on the value of the goods stolen over a period of time, 90 days, rather than a single act and the value must exceed $2,000.

The stiffer penalties are a result of the outcome of the alleged crimes:

1. Shoplifting is usually intended to benefit the accused by keeping the stolen item(s)

2. Retail theft is intended for monetary gain as the accused seeks to profit from the goods stolen

Charged with a crime? Get in touch.

If you’ve been charged with shoplifting or retail theft in South Carolina, it’s imperative that you know the difference between the charges and potential penalties you could be facing.

You don’t have to face your charge alone.

You need an experienced defense lawyer who can help you navigate the complexities of the legal system.

Get in touch with the attorneys at Kulp & Elliott to schedule a consultation, or call us directly at 843-853-3310.

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