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I was arrested for first offense misdemeanor shoplifting in

SC. The value of the...
I was arrested for first offense misdemeanor shoplifting in SC. The value of the goods was around $160, and all of the goods were recovered.

It is my understanding that a first offense misdemeanor shoplifting charge in SC carries a fine of $500 or 30 days in jail, or both, upon conviction--at least that's how I read the statute. However, while I was waiting for the officers to get the information they needed, I heard the officers and the loss prevention team saying that judges in my county are getting tired of shoplifters and are starting to fine people over $1000.

While I was on the way to the detention center, I asked the officer about that, and he said that judges used to issue fines of a few hundred dollars, but now they are going up to $1000 or $2000.

I'm confused about how this can be. Is it because these people with higher fines are pleading guilty? If I don't plead guilty and force the judge to convict me, will this reduce the fine? I do suppose, however, if the judge gets ticked off at my not guilty conviction, then he can order jail time as well.

I'm a single unemployed mom, and money is really tight for me. I want to make sure that I have all the funds I need to pay any fine, and I cannot have jail time because there is no one else who can care for my children. If, however, the judge can choose any amount out of the air, I'm not sure how I can make sure I'm prepared at the trial.

Will I have to pay the fine at the conclusion of the trial, or will I have an opportunity to work out a payment plan? I have no idea how any of this works; this is my first time getting arrested for anything.

Thank you.
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Answered in 10 minutes by:
2/13/2012
AttorneyTom
AttorneyTom, Lawyer
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 9,176
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Hello! Thank you for bringing your question to JustAnswer! I'm T-USA and I'll be happy to provide some valuable information!

I've spent the last several minutes reviewing and researching your question. As you review this answer, please keep in mind that I only credit for answering your question if you click Accept, so I'd be grateful if you'd do so. You'll still be able to ask follow-up questions using the Reply feature.

You are correct that the maximum penalty for misdemeanor shoplifting is $500 and/or 30 days in jail. However, if the value shoplifted exceeds $1000, that would be felony shoplifting punishable by a fine of up to $1000 and/or up to 5 years in prison. These are the penalties set forth by South Carolina Statutes Section 16-13-110 and a judge may not exceed those penalties assuming an individual is charged under that statute.
It could be that the officers were trying to intimidate you, get you talking, and get you to make a damaging statement. Alternatively, it could be that you were charged under a different statute (many times, crimes can be charged in a variety of ways). If you would like, you can check your paperwork and see which statute you've been charged under (it will appear as a series of numbers like those above) and if there's a different statute cited, I can look up the penalties pursuant to that statute for you.
If an individual cannot pay a fine outright, a payment plan may be arranged with the court.
Your next step is to retain an attorney. This isn't something you want to try to handle yourself. If you cannot afford one, the court can appoint an attorney for you. You would need to ask the court to do so at your next court appearance.

I know that this answer may not be entirely what you wanted to hear. However, it's the honest truth and I know you want a truthful answer above all. I don't get any credit for my time and effort spent answering your question unless you click Accept.

Please use the Reply let me know if you have any other questions!

Thank you again for coming to JustAnswer!
AttorneyTom
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Customer reply replied 5 years ago

Yes, my violation section number is XXXXX

 

I actually have signed a paper with the court that I am going to speak for myself at the trial. They gave it to me at my bond hearing, the judge asked me if I was going to speak for myself and give up my right to an attorney, and I said yes. He had me sign the paper.

 

The value of the shoplifted items does not exceed $1000, so I'm looking at a misdemeanor charge.

 

Since I asked the question, I found out that SC amended the statute and increased the allowed fine to $1000, so I should brace myself for the worst.

 

I was told that they had extensive tapes of me in the store, and I don't doubt that they do.

 

I'm thinking that the best solution to the problem is to plead guilty and take the fine. I may have said things to the loss prevention guys that lead them to believe I was admitting to the offense. I think I even said something to the officer during my transport that acknowledged my guilt. I'm hoping that if I admit to it then the judge will go easier on me, although I don't think that's likely, do you?

Thanks for your message! You are correct that the law has been updated. It appears that Lawserver, the site where I originally pulled up the statute, has not yet updated the SC Code of Laws. I'll make special note of that for the future.

You are correct that the maximum penalty is $1000 and/or 30 days in jail if the amount allegedly shoplifted is worth $2000 or less.

Honestly, I'm not a big fan of self-representation, nor am I a fan of guilty pleas unless people get something in exchange for them. Such situations often result in more damage than good being done. When an individual pleads guilty and throws herself on the mercy of the court, she's giving up her leverage and she will have a guilty conviction on her record. Until that time, the state has the responsibility of proving it's case and prosecutors will often negotiate favorable deals, particularly for first time offenders, to keep from having to take a matter to trial.
If I were you, I would ask the court to appoint an attorney. You can ask the court to do that in spite of the fact that you previously waived your right to an attorney and the court will likely do so, as an individual is entitled to representation when she has been charged with a crime.
Once you have an attorney, your attorney will evaluate the evidence against you to see exactly what you admitted to, whether there's a defense, and even if there's not, your attorney can try to negotiate something favorable to minimize the impact.

I know that this answer may not be entirely what you wanted to hear. However, it's the honest truth and I know you want a truthful answer above all. I don't get any credit for my time and effort spent answering your question unless you click Accept.

Please use the Reply let me know if you have any other questions!

Thank you again for coming to JustAnswer!
AttorneyTom
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