What the law says about shoplifting

Shoplifting can occur in many ways. While you may think you understand the definition of this crime, the real definition may surprise you. There are some actions you can take when shopping in a store that could make you guilty of shoplifting even if you never leave the store without paying for an item.

Knowing the law is essential to avoiding criminal charges. The North Carolina General Assembly explains that if a store employee or store security believes that you shoplifted, they may detain you. They need to keep you on or near the premises and may detain you until law enforcement comes on the scene. This is true even if you are a minor. They must try to contact your parents while you are in their custody, though.


If you face shoplifting charges, the court could charge you with a misdemeanor or felony. It depends on the nature of the crime and other factors that the prosecutor may consider. You may end up with as little as 24 hours of community service, or you could face time in jail if the court decided to convict you. The judge does have some freedom to create a sentence that he or she feels fits the crime and your criminal history, so you could face other penalties.

The crime

You may think shoplifting is leaving the store with an item you did not pay for, and while that is true, it is not the only definition of shoplifting. You are shoplifting if you use a device or another method to prevent security devices from working properly. You also shoplift if you switch or alter the price of an item. Finally, if you conceal merchandise, even if you never leave the store with it, this is also shoplifting. As you can see, you could shoplift without leaving the store or taking any item.