Is Misdemeanor Trespassing and Misdemeanor Shoplifting Really a Felony?

The web has several stories about large retail stores banning people caught shoplifting from returning, sometimes for life, sometimes from all of the stores in the chain. Sometimes the incident prompting the ban goes to court, with the person convicted of shoplifting. Sometimes the store does not pursue criminal charges but rather has the person sign an agreement acknowledging that he or she is not permitted to come back. What happens if the person returns, reenters the store, and is caught shoplifting again? In some districts in North Carolina, the person is charged not with trespassing and shoplifting, both misdemeanors, but rather with felony breaking or entering under G.S. 14-54(a). I have reservations about whether the law supports this charge.

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Is Entering a Store After Having Been “Trespassed” Chargeable as Felony Breaking or Entering?

In a session that I taught for magistrates, I learned that there is a practice in some districts of charging suspects with felony breaking or entering of a building when they enter a store after having been told not to return—commonly referred to as being “trespassed.” This may or may not be the appropriate charge, absent additional supporting facts.

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Sentencing for Shoplifting

Some crimes have their own sentencing regime—impaired driving, drug trafficking, and first-degree murder to name a few. There are also crimes that fall under Structured Sentencing but that also have additional punishment provisions built in. One such crime is concealment of merchandise in mercantile establishments, better known as shoplifting. Under G.S. 14-72.1(e), the punishment for … Read more