Shoplifting in the Self-Checkout Lane: Charges and Potential Defenses

Self-checkout lanes are increasingly popular, as retailers try to reduce the number of cashiers and customers want to complete their shopping faster and with no hassles. But these self-service checkouts also pose a serious danger: failure to scan just one item makes you liable of being charged with shoplifting in the self-checkout lane.

An experienced Anderson criminal defense lawyer explains how these charges can be brought against you and how to defend yourself against them.

The Legal Definition of Shoplifting in South Carolina

According to South Carolina Code 16-13-110, shoplifting represents any of the several actions:

  • Removing merchandize from a store without paying its retail price
  • Switching price tags on merchandize to get a lower price
  • Willfully concealing an item with the intention of not paying the full retail price for it.

Thus, you may be charged with shoplifting even if you do not actually leave the store with the goods, while you are still present in the self-checkout area.

You Can Be Accused of Shoplifting in the Self-Checkout Lane Even Later

Imagine this scenario. You went grocery shopping and used the self-checkout lane. Somehow, an item ended up in your shopping bag without being scanned and paid for. A few weeks later, you receive a letter from the theft prevention department of the store, stating that you stole goods.

The first thing you may think is – just throw away the letter and never shop there in the future. However, it is not as simple as that. If they sent that letter, they have some kind of evidence against you.

Most likely, the CCTV camera in the self-checkout area recorded you while scanning the products. And the camera captured the moment when one item was moved from the shopping cart into the bag without being scanned.

What Are the Potential Penalties for Shoplifting?

In this situation, you face two types of penalties. The first and most serious one is the criminal charge of shoplifting. Depending on the value of the goods you may be charged with:

  • Misdemeanor for goods valued at under $2,000: maximum $1,000 fine and up to 30 days in jail
  • Felony for goods valued at between $2,000 and $10,000: maximum $1,000 fine and up to 5 years in prison
  • Felony for goods valued $10,000 or more: maximum $1,000 fine and up to 10 years in prison.

In parallel, the store may also file a civil lawsuit seeking the reimbursement of the full value of the unpaid goods.

mistakes at the self-chekckout machine can result in criminal charges

The Role of the Property Crime Enhancement Statute in Shoplifting Cases

The bad news does not stop here. If you have two or more convictions for shoplifting or other property crimes based on the value of the goods, you can be charged under the property crime enhancement law, regardless of the dollar amount.

Thus, if you have three instances of shoplifting in the self-checkout lane involving items such as a chewing gum pack or a CD, you may face up to 10 years in prison when for the third charge.

And this is why you must take any such charge very seriously and contact an experienced Anderson criminal defense attorney without delay.

Potential Defenses to Shoplifting in the Self-Checkout Lane

The main element of the shoplifting charge is the intent to deprive the store of their merchandize without paying the full retail price. And this is the starting point for building your defense.

An experienced attorney will focus on proving that:

  • You were inexperienced with the use of self-checkout scanners and made an honest mistake
  • The scanner failed to work properly and did not record an item that you attempted to scan
  • You miscalculated the number of similar items when specifying the quantity
  • Someone else misplaced a label on a product which you picked up to purchase.

Proving any of these instances requires careful investigation, experience and in-depth knowledge of South Carolina laws. Therefore, do not attempt to defend yourself, but rely on a professional legal counsel.

Schedule a Free Case Review with a Skilled Anderson Criminal Defense Lawyer!

An innocent mistake could lead you into serious legal trouble. It is unfair, but you are not helpless in this situation. If you were charged with shoplifting in the self-checkout lane, reach out to a skilled Anderson criminal defense lawyer at Boatwright Legal immediately.

The attorney will carefully investigate the circumstances of the incident and find any weakness in the prosecution’s case against you.

As a new client, you benefit from one free case evaluation, so call us today at 864-332-4269!