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Use care this holiday season to avoid shoplifting charges

Many stores count on the holiday season to boost revenue for the year. It is also a time when people flock to the stores to get gifts and necessities. Unfortunately, some people don't have the money to get the things they need. This might lead them to try to take things without paying, but doing this can result in criminal charges.

Shoplifting is a serious charge that can result in a your having a criminal record. You might not realize exactly what constitutes shoplifting, but not knowing isn't going to be a valid excuse for doing something that isn't allowed. Here's what you need to know as you embark on your holiday shopping.

Must be intentional

Shoplifting isn't an unintentional action. You have to mean to deprive the store of the merchandise or profit from the merchandise. This doesn't mean that you have to go into the store strictly for the purpose of stealing. Instead, that decision must be made at the time the items are taken.

Location of the merchandise

You don't have to try to leave the store with the merchandise in order to be charged with shoplifting. Doing anything that could make it seem like you are trying to steal something, including sticking an item inside of another item in a way that makes it seem concealed, can lead to a shoplifting charge.

Another action that can lead to a shoplifting charge is changing the tags on merchandise to reflect a lower price. You can't legally move a sticker from one item to another in an effort to pay a lower price than what the merchant is asking for. If there are some items of the same kind that are marked down and some that aren't, you would have to ask the merchant about the pricing. Even though the item is the same, you can't move tags from a marked down item to one that is full priced.

More than criminal penalties

Not only do you have to worry about criminal penalties when you are accused of shoplifting, you have to worry about civil penalties. Tennessee law sets strict guidelines about what type of restitution the merchant is entitled to. The value of the item, the condition of the item, and whether it was returned to the merchant have an impact on the amount of restitution you will pay. Typically, you can count on having to pay two to three times the value of the merchandise if you are convicted of a shoplifting charge.

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