Under North Carolina law there are separate crimes for larceny and for shoplifting. Larceny can be a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances, while shoplifting is a less serious offense and is always a misdemeanor. Of course, theft is a crime in every state, but because North Carolina has more than one law for the same basic crime the outcome of your case can depend on the details. The most obvious difference between Larceny and shoplifting is that a person can be charged with larceny from a private individual or from a business, while shoplifting always involves theft from some sort of business.
The consequences of a larceny or a shoplifting conviction can be significant, because not only are you going to be punished by the court, but having a record for stealing will make it much harder to obtain jobs, loans and credit, and an apartment. We strongly recommend consulting with an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible if you are facing larceny or shoplifting charges.
Defining What is Larceny and What is Shoplifting in North Carolina
What is Larceny of Merchandise
If a person has items in a cart or being carried by hand, and they go past the line of registers without paying for the items, they can be charged with Larceny. This charge is based on the idea that once a person passes the last opportunity to pay for the item, they have removed the item from the store.
Larceny can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. Note that this is a totally separate crime from things like robbery or burglary which are always more serious felonies. Misdemeanor larceny occurs when somebody:
Takes the personal property from another
Carries it away
With the intent to permanently deprive the possessor
Knowing that he or she is not entitled to that property.
Under North Carolina statutes Larceny can become a felony under various circumstances, such as:
If the property is worth more than $1000
If the larceny was committed as part of a burglary or breaking/entering
Stealing a firearm
Stealing from your employer
Involved tampering with or disabling an inventory control device or security sensor at a store
If you are charged with larceny, it is not uncommon to also be charged with Possession of Stolen Goods. While this is a totally separate crime, the law does not allow a person to be convicted of both larceny and possession and to receive separate punishments for both. This is because the crime of larceny essentially cannot be committed without also possessing the stolen property, so you cannot be punished for both. However, it is possible to be charged with possession of stolen property even if you are not accused of larceny.
Unlawful Concealment Charges in North Carolina
The crime of shoplifting is really called Concealment of Goods and is a misdemeanor offense that is similar to larceny but is actually a completely different crime. Concealment of goods is less serious than misdemeanor larceny. Unlike larceny, which can be from a person or a business, shoplifting is by its definition a crime against a retail location. The crime of shoplifting happens inside the store, while the crime of larceny happens when you leave the store with the stolen property. Shoplifting/concealment of merchandise is defined as:
willfully concealing goods or merchandise of a store
without having purchased the goods or merchandise
while still on the premises of the store.
While a person might theoretically be charged with both larceny and concealment, as a practical matter this rarely happens. Because larceny is a more serious crime and often easier to prove in court, many stores will wait to try to catch shoplifters when they leave the store with the stolen property. So in a practical example, if you take an item from a store shelf and put it in your bag or pocket, if you are caught then you would be charged with Shoplifting/Concealment. The state does not have to prove that you meant to permanently keep that property, only that you concealed it. But if you then walk outside the store and are caught in the parking lot, you would be charged with larceny.
Penalties for Shoplifting and Larceny in North Carolina
The penalties for a conviction on a shoplifting or larceny charge depend on several factors including your criminal history. Felony charges and repeat offenses carry more severe punishments. If convicted of shoplifting, unlawful concealment, or larceny, you face:
Restitution (payment to the victim)
Fines and court costs
Jail (in extreme cases such as repeat offenses)
A conviction for stealing will follow you the rest of your life. Contact our office to consult with an experienced criminal defense lawyer to discuss your legal rights.
What Should I Do If I Am Accused of Stealing?
Theft prevention officers often allow you to leave the store in order to charge you with larceny rather than shoplifting. In most cases, they bring you back into the store to try to obtain a written statement. The purpose of the written statement is for you to admit to the shoplifting. The store gives your statement to law enforcement officers as evidence against you.
Do not believe store personnel or theft prevention officers if they tell you the store will not file charges if you make a statement and return the items. This is a ploy to obtain a statement. If the store intends to call the police and file charges, it will do so regardless of whether you provide a written statement; try to explain “your side” of the events; or, try to defend yourself during questioning.
The best thing you can do for your case is to exercise your right to remain silent. Do not answer questions or make a statement. When law enforcement officers arrive, continue to invoke your right to remain silent and request an attorney. You have the right to consult with a criminal defense lawyer before you make any statements or answer any questions.
Contact an Experienced Jacksonville Criminal Defense Lawyer
“Attorneys Who Aggressively Protect Your Rights”
To learn what is larceny and what is shoplifting, contact The Trevor J. Avery Law Firm by calling (910) 405-8459 or contact us online today for a free case evaluation. Our criminal defense attorneys represent clients throughout Duplin County, Onslow County, and the surrounding communities.