Shoplifting is one of the more common criminal charges we see. A store owner may think they observe something suspicious and call the police. This can lead to a big disruption for the person being accused of wrongdoing.
Being charged with something does not mean you are guilty, however. Here is what you should know about shoplifting charges.
Shoplifting is not just taking an item from a store
Tennessee has a broad definition of shoplifting. Taking an item from a shop without paying is, of course, shoplifting. But someone could also be charged with shoplifting if they are accused of:
- Altering the price of an item or removing the price marker
- Moving merchandise from one bin to another
- Doing anything that causes a register to show the wrong price
- Tampering with an anti-shoplifting device in an attempt to steal product
- Activating a fire alarm system to commit theft
- Using a container, instrument or device to take an item
This means authorities have flexibility if they want to charge someone with shoplifting.
Charges depend on product value
A shoplifting charge can be anything from a misdemeanor to a very serious felony. It all depends on the value of the product.
For example, if the theft of property involves an item valued at $1,000 or less, it would be charged as a Class A misdemeanor (which is the most serious misdemeanor in Tennessee). As the value of the merchandise goes up, so does the potential severity of the criminal charge. Anything worth more than that may be charged as a felony, ranging from Class E (the least serious) to Class A (the most serious).
It is important to remember that if someone is accused of shoplifting multiple items, the total value is what counts – not the value of each item separately.
How to defend yourself
Whatever the charge ultimately is, it is very important to have a strong defense. Even the lowest level shoplifting offense might result in time behind bars and a hefty fine, plus the repercussions in other areas of life. In some cases, prosecutors may even try to bring more serious allegations. That’s what happened to a woman charged with stealing $72 worth of property from Walmart – and somehow found herself facing felony burglary charges.
Do not let law enforcement trample all over you and dictate the outcome of the case. By fighting back, you can protect your name and help minimize any potential impact on your life.