Did you know that you can be charged with shoplifting in South Carolina for moving merchandise from one part of the store to another or for changing the price tag on a piece of merchandise? 

Or that South Carolina has a more serious shoplifting charge – “retail theft” – that can carry up to 20 years for a second offense? 

In this article, we will cover the basics of shoplifting charges in South Carolina, including:

  • What the state must prove to get a shoplifting conviction,
  • The potential penalties for a shoplifting conviction in South Carolina, 
  • The separate offense of “retail theft,” and 
  • The differences between shoplifting and retail theft charges. 

South Carolina Shoplifting vs. Retail Theft

Although most people probably think “retail theft” means shoplifting, they are actually two very different offenses. 

For example:

  • Retail theft can be based on conspiracy – you don’t even have to enter the store to be charged with retail theft,
  • Shoplifting is based on a single act, while retail theft is based on a series of acts – thefts over at least ninety (90) days that total up to more than $2000.00, and
  • Retail theft is shoplifting for monetary gain – the defendant intended to sell the merchandise or profit from it, whereas shoplifting can be charged even if a person takes an item for their personal use. 

 

The Basics of Shoplifting Charges in South Carolina

There are many ways that a person can be charged with shoplifting in South Carolina. 

First, most people understand that, if you walk out of a store with merchandise that you did not pay for, that is considered shoplifting. But did you know that you do not even have to leave the store with the merchandise? 

South Carolina Code § 16-13-110 says that a person is guilty of shoplifting if they:

  • Take possession of,
  • Carry away,
  • Transfer from one person to another,
  • Transfer from one area of a store to another area of the store,
  • Cause merchandise to be carried away or transferred,
  • Alter, transfer, or remove a label or price tag and then attempt to purchase the item at a lower price, or
  • Transfer merchandise to a different container. 

In every case, the State must also prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person intended to deprive the store of the merchandise without paying the full retail value. 

How does the State prove intent? 

One way is through South Carolina Code § 16-13-120 – if a person conceals merchandise, there is an inference that the person intended to steal the merchandise. This is a rebuttable presumption, and the defendant can still present evidence to show that they did not intend to steal the merchandise, including video evidence, witness testimony, or their own testimony. 

Penalties for Shoplifting Charges in South Carolina

If convicted, the penalties for shoplifting are based on the dollar value of the merchandise that was taken and the number of prior convictions a person has for property offenses:

Dollar Value Felony or Misdemeanor Court Jail Time
$2000 or less Misdemeanor Magistrate or municipal  Up to 30 days
More than $2000 but less than $10,000 Felony General Sessions Up to 5 years
$10,000 or more Felony General Sessions Up to 10 years
Two or more prior convictions for property offenses Felony General Sessions  Up to 10 years

 

South Carolina’s Property Crime Enhancement Statute

South Carolina has a property crime enhancement statute that applies to any crime “for which the term of imprisonment is contingent upon the value of the property involved,” which includes shoplifting charges as well as other property offenses like larceny, possession of stolen property, destruction of personal property, and breach of trust with fraudulent intent.  

Under South Carolina Code § 16-1-57, a person who is convicted of a third or subsequent offense must be punished “as prescribed for a Class E felony” which carries up to ten (10) years in prison. 

The Basics of Retail Theft Charges in South Carolina

Did you know that South Carolina has a separate shoplifting statute that carries a potential penalty of up to twenty (20) years for a second offense? 

The offense of “retail theft” is not charged nearly as often as shoplifting, but it covers situations where a person:

  1. Shoplifts over $2000.00 worth of merchandise over a ninety (90) day period with the intent to sell the merchandise or place it with a “fence” to be resold, 
  2. Conspires with another person to shoplift over $2000 worth of merchandise over a ninety (90) day period with the intent to sell the merchandise or place it with a “fence” to be resold, or
  3. Receives, possesses, or sells retail property when they know or should have known that the property was stolen. 

A person can be convicted of retail theft conspiracy even if no one has been convicted of the underlying shoplifting offenses, and the State is permitted to consolidate retail theft offenses from different counties into one county’s court without a need to prove jurisdiction for each offense so long as some of the offenses occurred in the charging county. 

Penalties for Retail Theft Charges in South Carolina

Retail theft carries significantly higher penalties than shoplifting if convicted:

Number of Offenses Felony or Misdemeanor Court Jail Time
1st Offense Misdemeanor Magistrate or municipal  Up to 3 years
2nd Offense Felony General Sessions Up to 20 years

 

Questions About Shoplifting Charges in South Carolina?

If you have been charged with shoplifting or retail theft in South Carolina, or if you believe you are under investigation, call the Seaton Law Office immediately – before you talk to police or investigators

The criminal defense lawyers at Seaton Law Office will investigate the allegations, answer your questions, and do everything legally and ethically possible to get your case dismissed, win your case at trial, or find a resolution that is fair and reasonable.

Call 843-761-3840 or use this form to contact us today to discuss your case and start working towards the best possible outcome for you.

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