Shoplifting Charges in North Carolina

Learn about the laws, penalties and civil consequences of a shoplifting charge in North Carolina. Find out if you can avoid a conviction and criminal record

Shoplifting in North Carolina is a crime with serious penalties, including potential fines and jail time. In addition to facing criminal penalties, shoplifters can be sued by merchants in civil court to recover damages.

North Carolina Shoplifting Laws

Shoplifting is punished as “larceny of goods” in North Carolina law. Larceny is committed when a person takes and carries away property, without the owner’s consent, and with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property.

Charges for shoplifting are based on the value of the shoplifted merchandise. Typically, when the merchandise is valued above $1,000, the crime is charged as a felony, otherwise as a misdemeanor. Under certain circumstances, such as shoplifting property valued at more than $200 through an emergency exit, shoplifting a firearm, or tampering with antishoplifting devices, the crime will be charged as a felony, even if the merchandise is valued at less than $1,000. Concealing goods in a store or altering price tags and then presenting the goods for purchase are misdemeanor offenses.

Merchants can legally detain a person in a reasonable manner, for a reasonable amount of time, if they have probable cause to believe that the person is shoplifting. In addition to facing criminal penalties such as jail time and fines, shoplifters can be sued by merchants in civil court for damages.

North Carolina Shoplifting Criminal Penalties

Charge

Classification

Penalty

First conviction for willfully concealing merchandise within a store or for altering price tags

Class 3 misdemeanor

One to ten days of jail time with no prior convictions; sentencing increases with prior convictions

Second conviction within three years for willfully concealing merchandise within a store or for altering price tags

Class 2 misdemeanor

Up to 30 days of jail time with no prior convictions; sentencing increases with prior convictions

Third conviction within five years for willfully concealing merchandise within a store or for altering price tags

Class 1 misdemeanor

Between 1 and 45 days of jail time; sentencing increases with prior convictions

Using a tool such as a lined bag to prevent activation of an antitheft device

Class H felony

Between 4 and 25 months of jail time depending on prior conviction history, aggravating and mitigating factors

Use of an emergency exit door to exit a store with goods valued at $200 or more, removing or altering an antitheft device such as a security tag, or attaching a false price tag

Class H felony

Between 4 and 25 months of jail time depending on prior conviction history, aggravating and mitigating factors

Civil Liability

Adult and emancipated minor shoplifters can be sued by victimized merchants in civil court. Merchants are entitled to compensatory damages for any loss of value in the stolen goods, plus consequential damages, punitive damages, and reasonable attorney fees. The total amount of compensatory and consequential damages can total between $150 and $1,000. Under certain conditions, the custodial parents or legal guardians of unemancipated minor shoplifters will be liable for the damages listed above, with the exception of the punitive damages.

Deferred Prosecution Programs and Plea Bargains

Certain individuals accused of first-time and low-level crimes may be able to participate in deferred prosecution or diversion programs. If an accused fulfills the requirements of the program, which could include paying restitution and performing community service, the criminal charges will be dropped.

If deferred prosecution programs are not available, the accused may be able to negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecutor. Plea bargaining typically involves receiving lesser charges or lighter sentencing in exchange for a guilty plea.

Learn more about diversion and pretrial options.

Getting Help

If you have been accused of shoplifting in North Carolina, it is in your best interests to get help from a qualified criminal defense attorney. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can assist you in exploring any options you have, including pursuing deferred prosecution, raising defenses, or negotiating a plea bargain, in order to minimize the consequences of a shoplifting charge.

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