If you’ve ever gone shopping and felt like you needed something but couldn’t afford to buy it, you may have felt tempted to shoplift. Sometimes, you need something and may rationalize in your head that the store won’t miss it or that you’re only hurting a big business that doesn’t care about you. However, shoplifting in NC is illegal and often comes with severe penalties. Let’s look at if you can get away with shoplifting in NC.

Can You Get Away with Shoplifting in NC?

In some states, shoplifting is rampant in drugstores and other retail establishments. According to the NY Post, in NY city, “serial shoplifters, even if arrested, typically walk free the same day. Cases against them are often not prosecuted.” One man in Queens, NY, shoplifted 46 times in 2021. (1)

The police commissioner tweeted that the whole situation in NY city is “Insanity. No other way to describe the resulting crime that has flowed from disastrous bail reform law.” 

In California, a similar situation is happening. CA state law allows only misdemeanor prosecution for merchandise worth $950 or less. Law enforcement doesn’t usually investigate, and if they do, prosecutors will let it go. (2)

NC Shoplifting Law

However, in North Carolina, the misdemeanor shoplifting limit is $1000, and our state does not have a bail reform law that prevents jail time for offenders. If you shoplift in our state, even under the $1000 limit, you could face Class 1 misdemeanor charges.

Class 1 misdemeanor charges are serious. If convicted, you could serve a jail sentence of up to 4 months (120 days), along with a fine determined by the judge. 

Is Shoplifting Ever a Felony?

Law enforcement and prosecutors look at the circumstances of the theft to determine if you face felony charges. NC law decides about felony shoplifting charges based on: 

  • How much you are stealing: If the property is worth less than $1,000, the law classifies the offense as a Class 1 misdemeanor. If the property is worth more than $1000, your shoplifting is a Class H felony with a prison sentence of 10-41 months. 
  • Who did you steal with?: Conspiring to commit theft of retail property worth more than $1,500 over a 90-day period, with the intent to sell through a retail property fence or another person is a felony.
  • How you steal it: If you break and enter, it’s felony shoplifting

For other felony theft, law enforcement looks at these factors also:

  • Who you steal from: Did you steal from your employer? If it was less than $100,000, you can face a Class H felony with a prison sentence of 10-41 months. 
  • What you are stealing: Stealing gas or firearms is always a Class H felony with a prison sentence of 10-41 months.

When Simple Shoplifting Becomes a Felony

Let’s say you are at the mall jewelry store with a good friend trying on necklaces and the salesperson gets distracted. Your friend slips your favorite pendant into her purse and winks at you. Let’s say the pendant retails for $600. 

If you later accept the pendant as a gift from your friend, you can also face misdemeanor charges. If you know a gift is stolen (or even if you should have known) you can face the same charges as the thief. 

Now let’s say that In addition, your friend also steals a gold chain from the same store valued at $455, and gives it to you. You accept the gift to save face with your friend. At this point, you could face a Class H felony charge because the entire theft was worth more than the $1000 misdemeanor shoplifting limit.

Felony vs Misdemeanor Convictions

A felony conviction means you lose your ability to: 

  • Vote (until you’ve completed all terms)
  • Own firearms
  • Buy a home easily
  • Rent an apartment or lease a home or car easily
  • Get a job easily
  • Have your freedom (long prison sentence)
  • Keep your money (fines, court costs, attorney fees)

A misdemeanor conviction costs a bit less with possible fines, jail time, your reputation, and job prospects. However, you don’t lose your right to vote or own a firearm.

We Can Help

If you’re facing a shoplifting conviction, we have the legal expertise you need to deal with the charges. We work with you every step of the way to ensure that your rights are protected and your voice is heard. Our experience with shoplifting cases has shown us that negotiation with the prosecutor may help to reduce or defer your charges, especially if you are a first-time offender. Whether you are a seasoned thief or an accidental one, contact us today and find out how we can help you resolve your charges successfully.


  1. https://nypost.com/2021/10/09/nyc-drug-store-shelves-empty-amid-shoplifting-surge/
  2. https://www.hoover.org/research/why-shoplifting-now-de-facto-legal-california


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