We Have the Experience You Need to Fight Your Theft Charges.
If you have been charged with any type of theft in South Carolina, or if you believe you are under investigation for theft, you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side immediately.
You may have defenses to the charges which could include consent, mistaken identity, or lack of intent, you may be eligible for a pretrial diversion program, or you may have other options that would allow us to get your case dismissed before trial.
The attorneys at the Seaton Law Office will investigate your case, work to get your charges dismissed before trial, prepare your case for trial, and keep your record clean whenever possible.
Understanding Criminal Charges Related to Theft
“Theft” is not a criminal charge in South Carolina, but South Carolina law contains several categories of crimes that are related to theft, including:
- Larceny, including grand larceny and petit larceny,
- Fraud, including breach of trust and embezzlement,
- Receiving or possession of stolen goods,
- Joyriding, or temporary unlawful use of a vehicle, and
- A broad range of property crimes.
Penalties for theft in South Carolina can vary depending on the charges, whether there are any prior convictions for theft or property crimes, and the value of the property that was taken.
Most property crimes in South Carolina have “graduated penalties” based on the value of the property taken. For example, if the value of the property in a larceny or shoplifting case is:
- < $2000, it is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail.
- > $2000 but < $10,000, it is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.
- > $10,000, it is a felony punishable by up to ten years in prison.
Crimes with this penalty scheme include breach of trust, receiving or possession of stolen goods, shoplifting, and larceny (petit larceny and grand larceny).
SC has a “property crime enhancement” law, found in SC Code Section 16-1-57, that says if any person is convicted of a property crime where the punishment depends on the value of the property involved (larceny or shoplifting, for example), then they must be punished as if the offense were a Class E felony.
SC Code Section 16-1-20 says that a Class E felony is punishable by up to ten years in prison.
This means that you could be sentenced to ten years in prison if you are convicted for stealing a piece of candy from a store, if you have two or more prior convictions for similar offenses.
Theft crimes and criminal intent:
Before a person can be convicted of theft, the prosecutor must prove each and every element of the crime, and that includes the specific intent to steal.
For example, if someone absent-mindedly walks past a register with an item from a store, but they did not intend to steal the item, they can and should be found not guilty of shoplifting.
Or, if someone is charged with grand larceny for taking an automobile, the state must prove that they intended to permanently deprive the owner of the vehicle.
If the person intended to return the vehicle, it is, at best, borrowing the vehicle (not a crime), and, at worst, temporary unlawful use of a vehicle (joyriding, which is a less serious offense than grand larceny).
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Four (4) Steps To Take If You’ve Been Arrested For Theft in South Carolina
1. Contact an Attorney
Contact a criminal defense attorney: Knowledgeable criminal defense counsel can make you aware of your rights and prevent mistakes from occurring. Having a lawyer by your side can stop law enforcement from tricking you or bullying you during interrogations.
2. Do Not Talk to Police
Do not discuss your case with the police: Talking to investigators about seemingly innocuous case details without an attorney can damage your defense. They may take what you say out of context and use your words against you in the courtroom. Trying to convince investigators of your innocence in an initial interview without an attorney present or after your arrest can only hurt your case.
3. Do Not Talk to Friends or Family
Do not discuss your case with friends or family: Anything that you say to anyone about your case can be used against you. Do not post about your case on social media or send messages about your charges.
4. Do Not Lose Hope
Do not lose hope about your case: No matter the details of your case, no prosecutor has a guaranteed conviction. There are so many things that can go wrong with a prosecutor’s case. Our criminal defense lawyer will be at your side in the courtroom and whenever you speak to police or prosecutors, and, when possible, we will find the evidence we need to win your case or to mitigate your prison sentence.
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Let’s discuss the details of your case and see if we can help.
Common Questions About Theft Charges in South Carolina
Can I Get Pretrial Intervention for Theft Charges?
Theft charges are often eligible for PTI – which results in a dismissal and expungement once the program’s requirements are completed.
If you have no (or a minimal) prior record, if the prosecutor and the alleged victim agree to PTI, and if you agree to pay any restitution claimed by the alleged victim(s), you may be eligible for PTI.
Which Court are Theft Charges Heard In?
Petit larceny and other property crimes where the value of the property is less than $2,000 are usually heard in the magistrate or municipal courts, because the potential sentence is 30 days or less.
When the potential sentence is greater than 30 days – which includes grand larceny and most property offenses where the dollar value is greater than $2,000, the case will be in General Sessions Court.
Can I Be Charged with a Property Crime Enhancement for Different Offenses?
Yes, you can.
For example, if you have a prior conviction for shoplifting and a prior conviction for larceny, but you are now charged with breach of trust < $2,000, you can be sentenced to as much as 10 years in prison under SC’s property crime enhancement.
It doesn’t have to be the same crime, as long as the prior offenses were crimes where the punishment is determined by the dollar value of the property involved.