South Carolina Petit and Grand Larceny and Shoplifting Laws

Like many states, South Carolina classifies its larceny offenses according to the value of the stolen property—and, in some cases, according to the type of property involved in the larceny.

South Carolina’s larceny statute covers a broad range of prohibited conduct, including theft, embezzlement, false pretenses, receiving stolen property, and other similar offenses.

Defining Theft and Larceny Under South Carolina Law

South Carolina law penalizes theft offenses under its larceny statutes. The definition of larceny cannot be found in statute; rather, South Carolina retains the common law definition found in case law.

Case law provides that a person commits larceny by taking and carrying away another’s personal property with the intent to deprive the owner of possession and convert the goods to the offender’s use. The larceny statute breaks down the crime, even further, into petit and grand larceny based on the value of the stolen property. Other larceny-related crimes that have similar penalties include stealing bonds, false pretenses, embezzlement of public funds, breach of trust, stealing vessels, and receiving stolen goods.

South Carolina criminal statutes also outline several specific theft or larceny offenses, such as the stealing of aquaculture products, dogs, motor vehicles, boats, and bicycles. These offenses have penalties that are different from general larceny and will not be covered in this article. Check the South Carolina Code to find penalties for these and other specific offenses.

(S.C. Code §§ 16-13-30, -40, -70, -180, -210, -230, -240 (2020); State v. Tindall, 50 S.E.2d 188 (S.C. 1948).)

Classification and Penalties for Larceny and Theft in South Carolina

Like many states, South Carolina classifies its theft or larceny offenses according to the value of the stolen property. As a result, a theft or larceny offense can constitute a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the value of the property involved.

Petit Larceny

A person commits petit larceny by unlawfully taking any article of goods, chattels, instruments, or other movable property with a value of $2,000 or less.

Petit larceny constitutes a misdemeanor under South Carolina law. A guilty offender faces penalties of up to 30 days in jail or a $1,000 fine.

Grand Larceny

A person commits grand larceny, a felony, when the value of the stolen property is over $2,000. South Carolina divides grand larceny into two categories, depending on the value of the taken property.

If the stolen property has a value of more than $2,000 but less than $10,000, the offender risks up to five years in prison or a fine at the discretion of the court (Class F felony).

If the unlawfully obtained property is worth more than $10,000, the defendant faces up to 10 years in prison or a fine at the discretion of the court (Class E felony).

(S.C. Code § 16-13-30 (2020).)

Sentencing Alternatives and Enhancements

South Carolina law provides various sentencing options to judges in larceny-related matters.

Sentencing Alternative

In larceny cases, if the judge sentences the defendant to less than the maximum provided for in the law, a portion of the sentence may be suspended while the defendant serves a term of probation. While on probation, if the offender pays the full amount of restitution owed to the victim and complies with all other imposed probationary terms, the defendant will not be required to serve the remaining portion of the original sentence.

Sentencing Enhancement

For a third or subsequent larceny offense conviction, defendants automatically subject themselves to the penalties of a Class E felony, which can result in a 10-year prison sentence.

(S.C. Code §§ 16-1-57; 17-25-125 (2020).)

Shoplifting: Criminal and Civil Penalties

Like many states, South Carolina shoplifting laws provide for both criminal and civil penalties.

A person commits shoplifting by intentionally doing any of the following acts without the merchant’s consent and with the intent to permanently deprive the merchant of the goods without paying full retail value:

  • takes possession of, transfers, or conceals merchandise
  • takes or carries away merchandise
  • alters, transfers, or removes any price tag markings or labels affixed to the merchandise, or
  • switches the contents of merchandise containers.

(In some states, shoplifting and retail theft are synonymous. But, in South Carolina, both crimes exist. To be convicted of retail theft, the offender must intend to sell the stolen retail property for monetary or other gain.)

Criminal Penalties

The criminal penalties for shoplifting are based on the value of the merchandise involved. When the value of the stolen goods is $2,000 or less, the shoplifter faces up to 30 days in jail or a $1,000 fine. If the value of the goods is between $2,000 and $10,000, the offender is subject to five years in prison and a $1,000 fine. Finally, if the stolen goods are worth more than $10,000, the defendant can be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.

Civil Penalties

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 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 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 §§ 15-75-40; 16-13-110, -135, -175 (2020).)

Talk to a Lawyer

If you have been charged with larceny or a theft-related crime, contact a local criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Larceny and theft charges can negatively affect one’s future employment opportunities, ability to qualify for housing, and even immigration status. An experienced lawyer will be able to thoroughly discuss your options with you.

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