In Tennessee, shoplifting is considered a serious criminal offense. Whether it’s an unfortunate mistake, a misunderstanding, or an intentional act, being charged with shoplifting can be stressful, often leading to severe consequences if not properly addressed. In this blog, we’ll break down Tennessee’s shoplifting laws, penalties, possible defenses, and the role a criminal defense attorney can play in your case.
What Is Shoplifting?
In Tennessee, “shoplifting” isn’t recognized as a standalone criminal charge. Instead, it’s grouped under the more encompassing legal category of “theft of property.” This broader classification includes various actions that are considered illegal, some of which extend beyond the traditional idea of theft.
While the term shoplifting generally brings to mind the act of physically removing an item from a store without paying, it also covers other deceptive activities. These include practices like altering price tags (switching the price tag on a pricier item with a cheaper one) or repackaging (moving a more expensive item into the package of a less costly one). Both these actions involve intentionally misrepresenting an item’s value to avoid full payment, hence qualifying as theft.
Also included in the scope of shoplifting is the act of consuming food or drinks in a store without paying. It might seem harmless to eat or drink something while shopping and discard the wrapper before checkout, but this is still theft, as you’re consuming the item before paying for it.
Of course, the act that most commonly comes to mind – concealing merchandise with the intent to leave without paying – is certainly covered. This typically involves hiding items in pockets, purses, or under clothing. What makes this shoplifting is the intent to leave the store without paying for the concealed item.
Penalties For Shoplifting In Tennessee
In Tennessee, the severity of penalties for shoplifting or “theft of property” is primarily based on the value of the stolen property or services. The law provides a graded system, as outlined below:
- If the value of the property or services stolen is $1,000 or less, it’s considered a Class A misdemeanor.
- Theft becomes a Class E felony when the value of the stolen property or services is more than $1,000 but less than $2,500.
- If the value is $2,500 or more but less than $10,000, the theft is categorized as a Class D felony.
- The theft graduates to a Class C felony if the value of the property or services stolen is $10,000 or more but less than $60,000.
- Theft is a Class B felony if the value of the property or services stolen is $60,000 or more but less than $250,000.
- If the value of the stolen property or services is $250,000 or more, the theft is a Class A felony.
It’s important to note that the state may combine multiple shoplifting acts committed against one or more victims into a single charge if these acts are part of a common scheme or intent. In other words, if you’re caught shoplifting multiple times, the value of goods stolen can be aggregated to determine the charge’s severity.
The venue for prosecuting an offense under this section can be in the county where any element of the offense occurred or where any activity related to the theft—such as solicitation, acceptance, storage, or financial transactions involving the stolen property—occurred.
Lastly, irrespective of the value, theft of a firearm carries its own specific penalty. Besides any other authorized penalty under the law, it is punishable by a mandatory minimum confinement of 180 days.
How A Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help With Shoplifting Charges
If you’re facing shoplifting charges in Tennessee, the assistance of a skilled criminal defense attorney is essential. An experienced attorney can help you understand Tennessee’s theft laws and guide you through the complex legal process associated with these charges.
One of the first things a capable attorney can do is thoroughly evaluate the evidence against you. They have the knowledge and expertise to assess whether the evidence is weak or was obtained illegally. If it is, they could argue for the dismissal of the charges.
Providing valuable legal advice is another fundamental role a defense attorney plays. They can explain the potential outcomes of your case based on its specifics and guide you through your options. They will help you understand each decision’s possible consequences, whether that involves accepting a judicial diversion agreement or understanding probation requirements.
Your defense attorney can also conduct an independent investigation into the alleged shoplifting incident. They will meticulously dissect every detail and look for inconsistencies or errors that could potentially weaken the prosecution’s case.
One of the primary pieces of evidence in shoplifting cases is surveillance footage. In stores like Walmart, surveillance systems are in place, and your attorney can review this footage. They can scrutinize it to ascertain if it supports or contradicts the prosecution’s narrative.
The attorney can also challenge any procedural misconduct during your arrest or detention. If the police or store personnel failed to follow proper protocols, a defense attorney could leverage this to argue for a dismissal or reduction of the charges.
Depending on the specifics of your case, first-time offenders or minor charges might be eligible for a judicial diversion. Your defense attorney can negotiate for an agreement for diversion, which, if successfully completed, would lead to charges being dropped or reduced.
Lastly, even after charges have been resolved, a defense attorney can provide crucial post-charge assistance. They can guide you through understanding and complying with probation requirements, help negotiate fines, or provide advice on preventing future legal issues.
Secure Your Future with Barnes & Fersten
Shoplifting charges in Tennessee can lead to significant legal repercussions. Whether you’re facing a shoplifting first offense, or you’ve found yourself in this situation before, each case is unique and deserves individualized attention. At Barnes & Fersten, we are committed to providing you with the robust legal defense you deserve.
Our criminal defense attorneys will review every aspect of your case, challenge questionable evidence, and explore every potential defense strategy. They will guide you through each step of the legal process, providing advice tailored to your unique circumstances. Reach out to Barnes & Fersten today and let our experienced team be your legal advocates.
Attorney At Law, Managing Partner
Brandon D. Fersten is an esteemed Knoxville attorney practicing DUI, criminal defense, and juvenile law. Known for his empathetic approach and commitment to his clients, he brings a record of favorable case outcomes including dismissals and not guilty verdicts at jury trials resulting in Brandon being recognized as one of the “Top 40 Under 40” in Criminal Defense, U.S. News’ Best Lawyers: “Ones to Watch,” and Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars”. Brandon’s professional accolades, combined with his passion for justice, position him as a reliable criminal defense advocate in the East Tennessee legal landscape.