Raleigh NC Theft Crimes Lawyer
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 by having all records of your charge expunged. Contact Raleigh Shoplifting Defense Lawyer Wiley Nickel.
Shoplifting in North Carolina is a crime with serious penalties, including potential fines and jail time. While jail time and probation are rare for first ofenders the true damage is done by way of lost job opportunities by having a shoplifting conviction on your record. 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 either “larceny” or “concealment of merchandise” 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. Concealment of merchandise occurs when a person willfully conceals the goods or merchandise of a store while still on the premises of a store is charged as a class 3 misdemeanor.
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. Tampering with antishoplifting devices will cause the crime to be charged as a felony, even if the merchandise is valued at less than $1,000. Using a lead lined bag to conceal goods will turn a concealment charge into a felony as well.
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.
Adults (ages 16 and up) can be sued by merchants in civil court in North Carolina. The total amount of compensatory and consequential damages can total between $150 and $1,000. Under certain conditions, the custodial parents of minor shoplifters will be liable for the damages listed above. Most major stores will send a civil demand letter to anyone (and their parents) charged with shoplifting at their store. Generally we see these letters as a bluff where civil litigation does not often ensue if the demand letters are not paid. Paying the civil demand letter unfortunately does not have an effect on the criminal proceedings.
Overly Aggressive Loss Prevention Officers Falsely Charge Innocent Shoppers
Many of our clients are truly innocent of shoplifting. Many people are charged with shoplifting even though they had no intention of stealing. While it may seem far-fetched we very often encounter people who simply forgot they had something with them when they left the store. Whether you forgot a small item on the bottom of your child’s stroller or forgot about that one piece of make-up that was in your purse so it wouldn’t slide out of the shopping cart you can be charged with shoplifting. Many of the large stores like Wal-Mart, Kohl’s and Target have very aggressive loss prevention officers/secret shoppers who have zero discretion when it comes to charging someone with shoplifting when they see someone leave without paying for an item.
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 include paying restitution and performing community service, the criminal charges will be dropped by The Wake County District Attorney’s Office.
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. There are also less formal plea deals possible where community service can be done for a dismissal in certain cases.
Learn more about diversion and pretrial options.
Expungement of Shoplifting Charges
Even if your charges are dismissed a criminal record of the arrest/charge remains visible to the public forever unless it is expunged. Many people think that once their case is dismissed all records are erased – this is not true. You need to file a petition to have all public records expunged in order to make sure that the records are erased. You do not want to explain to prospective employers why you have a dismissed shoplifting charge on your record. In Wake County this process generally takes around two to four months. But at the end of the process all public records are erased. This is a service we perform for all of our clients at The Law Offices of Wiley Nickel.
Contact an Experienced Raleigh Shoplifting Defense Lawyer
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 shoplifting attorney 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. If you have been charged with shoplifting in the Raleigh area contact The Law Offices of Wiley Nickel, PLLC at 919-585-1486 for a free consultation to discuss your options.