Being accused of shoplifting is a confusing and overwhelming experience. After all, things like this don't happen to you every day. The accusation feels even worse when you enter a store with no intention of stealing something!
No matter the circumstances, shoplifting charges are serious. You should exercise your rights to a defense and start preparing strategies with your attorney now.
In this article, we dive into some common defenses people can use to protect themselves from shoplifting accusations.
Shoplifting Penalties in SC
In South Carolina, shoplifting penalties vary depending on the value of the stolen goods.
For goods valued at less than $2,000, first-time offenders can face fines of up to $1,000 or imprisonment for up to 30 days, or both.
If someone is a repeat offender, or the goods are valued at $2,000 or more, they can face a felony charge with penalties of up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000.
Alleged shoplifters may also be required to pay restitution for the merchandise.
Defense #1: Challenge Police Procedures
Investigate whether the police followed proper procedures during your alleged shoplifting incident. Did they follow protocol when searching you or your belongings? Was the arrest conducted lawfully? Did they use unnecessary for or intimidation? These are just a few questions your attorney should ask when overlooking your case.
Defense #2: Alibi
If you were somewhere else when the alleged incident took place, then you may use this fact to help fight a shoplifting charge. Simply claiming to have been somewhere else is not enough. You also need to provide concrete evidence to support your defense. Witness testimony or video footage can help verify your alibi. You may even have a paper trail like store receipts or GPS tracking that places you elsewhere at the time of the crime.
Defense #3: Innocent Intent
You may be able to prove that you did not intend to take something without permission. Of course, this isn't always easy to do, but it's a viable option as a defense. For instance, your attorney can help explain that you absentmindedly walked out of a store with an item. Perhaps you had merchandise on the bottom rack of your cart and simply forgot to ring it up. There are many ways that people accidentally shoplift every day, and courts can be sympathetic to this reality.
Defense #4: Mistaken Identity
Imagine this: You're strolling through your favorite store, minding your own business, when all of a sudden, you're grabbed by security and accused of shoplifting. You know for a fact that you didn't take anything, but the security guard won’t hear your story. That's when you realize that someone who looks strikingly similar to you must have committed the crime.
It's a case of mistaken identity, and it could happen to anyone. Eyewitness testimony is often unreliable, and even security cam footage can be grainy and filmed at odd angles. Cases of mistaken identity are not only possible, but they are also inevitable.
Masella Law Firm, P.A. is here to help you fight unjust accusations in court. No matter the circumstances, you always have the right to a defense. Don’t let anyone tell you the crime is too “minor” or that you should handle it on your own. For a free consultation, contact our office online or call us now at (803) 938-4952.