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Beware of Self-Checkouts!

Beware of self-checkouts at big box stores!

With the uprise in self-checkout stations across shopping retailers, we have also seen an increase in criminal convictions for shoplifting and larceny. While self-checkout stations are convenient, there are many ways in which innocent and accidental behavior can be interpreted with criminal intent. If your missed swipe of an item is interpreted as your attempt to steal, you will likely be charged with Shoplifting or Larceny. Exploring the individual elements of these crimes shows how easily your behavior can be used against you in a court of law.

Shoplifting – N.C.G.S. 14-72.1

Shoplifting may be charged when a person is apprehended within a store after concealing merchandise. If charged with shoplifting, the State would have to show that the defendant:

  • Willfully concealed

  • Merchandise of a store

  • Without authority from someone in the store

  • Without having purchased the merchandise, and

  • While still on the premises of the store.

The best example is when someone puts a piece of merchandise in their jacket pocket so that it is completely concealed within the jacket pocket. You can be in the back of the store still browsing and be charged with Shoplifting for that action.

This is a class 3 misdemeanor. Based on your criminal record, you could be sentenced to 1 to 30 days of active, intermediate (probation), or community punishment. The maximum penalty would be 30 days in jail and a $200 fine.

Larceny – N.C.G.S. 14-72

Larceny may be charged when a person is apprehended after leaving the store. If charged with larceny, the State would have to show that the defendant:

  • Has taken

  • Personal property that is

  • In the possession of another (the store)

  • Has carried it away (left the store)

  • Without consent and

  • With the intent to deprive the possessor of it permanently, while

  • Knowing that he or she was not entitled to it.

While this seems more broad and trickier for the State to prove, it is much more common to be charged with this rather than shoplifting. That is because the State often uses the “Last Point of Sale Rule.” The Last Point of Sale Rule is the general idea that even though you did not make it all the way out of the store, you have passed the cash registers, showing an intent to steal.

Obviously, there are a lot of situations that can rebut this, but it can be tricky if you are not familiar with the elements of the law.

Larceny is a class 1 misdemeanor. Based on your criminal record, the sentencing range is 1 to 120 days of active, intermediate (probation), or community punishment. The maximum jail time you could face would be 120 days. There is no maximum fine that could be assessed. This is completely in the judge’s discretion.

These are complicated charges because so many individual facts or details can throw a wrench in either side’s argument. It is important to have someone on your side that understands the law and can wade through these facts for you to help you weigh your pros and cons of any avenue you decide to take with your charge. Call the defense attorneys at Granados Law Group at 919-650-2851. Let us use your experience to protect your reputation!

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