Defining Theft Under South Carolina Law
South Carolina law does not give a general definition of theft, but refers to all theft offenses as “larceny” -- the theft of goods, bank bills, or any other item of value. For the most part, theft in South Carolina can generally be defined as the unlawful taking of property that belongs to another person, done with the intent to permanently deprive that person of the property.
South Carolina criminal statutes outline several specific theft or larceny offenses, such as the stealing of bonds, livestock, dogs, motor vehicles, boats, and bicycles. Similarly, South Carolina specifically outlines the actions that constitute shoplifting under the law.
Classification and Penalties for Theft in South Carolina
Like many states, South Carolina classifies its theft or larceny offenses according to the value of the property or services taken. As a result, a theft or larceny offense can constitute a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the value of the property involved. Shoplifting offenses also are classified in a similar manner in South Carolina. However, most theft crimes are grouped into two main categories -- petit larceny and grand larceny. Let’s start by taking a closer look at petit larceny, or petty theft, which is the lowest level theft offense under South Carolina law.
Petit Larceny or Petty Theft. The lowest-level theft offense is called "petit larceny," or petty theft, which is a misdemeanor under South Carolina law. Petit larceny is defined as the theft of property or services valued at $2,000 or less. (S.C. Code Ann. § 16-13-30(A).)
Petit larceny in South Carolina is punishable by a sentence of imprisonment of no more than 30 days, or by a fine not to exceed $1,000. (§ 16-13-30(A).)
Grand Larceny or Grand Theft. Grand larceny or theft in South Carolina is a felony offense that falls into one of two categories, depending on the value of the property or services taken.
Grand larceny of property or services valued at more than $2,000 but less than $10,000 is a felony punishable by a term of no more than five years in prison, or a fine at the discretion of the court.
Grand larceny of property or services valued at more than $10,000 is a felony punishable by a term of up to 10 years in prison, or a fine at the discretion of the court. (S. C. Code Ann. § 16-13-30(B).)
Civil Penalties for Theft in South Carolina
In addition to criminal penalties, a person who commits shoplifting in the state of South Carolina will be civilly liable to the store owner or the owner of the merchandise in an amount that includes:
- the retail price of the merchandise, if the goods are not recovered in a sellable condition, up to a maximum of $1,500, and
- an additional penalty not to exceed the greater of three times the retail price of the merchandise or $150, up to a maximum of $500.
In cases involving a shoplifter who is a minor, if the parent or legal guardian of the minor "knew or should have known" of the minor's propensity to steal, the parent or legal guardian may be civilly liable to the store owner for damages in the same amounts listed above. (S.C. Code Ann. § 15-75-40.)
Furthermore, in addition to criminal penalties for theft, an offender who uses a vehicle during the commission of a larceny or theft is subject to having the vehicle confiscated and forfeited in civil proceedings. The vehicle in question must be registered to the offender, and must have been used during the commission of the offense.
Effect of Prior Convictions on Current Theft Charge in South Carolina
The effect of prior convictions on a current theft charge in South Carolina is not specifically covered in South Carolina statutes on theft. However, any criminal conviction on an offender’s criminal record, either for a theft-related offense or for any other misdemeanor or felony, is likely to result in harsher punishments at sentencing time.
You can conduct your own legal research or speak to a South Carolina criminal law attorney to understand how prior theft-related convictions -- or any prior criminal convictions -- may affect a theft charge in South Carolina.