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When is Shoplifting a Serious Crime?

While even misdemeanor shoplifting charges can result in jail time, the crime becomes more serious as the value of the stolen items goes up.

shoplifting in Tennessee

Shoplifting allegations get taken very seriously by Tennessee law enforcement; even a misdemeanor shoplifting charge can result in almost a year in prison and close to $3,000 in fines. Additionally, the penalties for shoplifting could be augmented by additional charges, adding to both the fine and jail time.

It should be noted that, while shoplifting does constitute an act of theft, the criminal charge of shoplifting tends to be different from theft. Generally speaking, shoplifting refers to taking goods without paying for them while theft applies to taking personal property.

To keep it simple: shoplifting would be taking a television from a store without paying, and theft would be taking someone’s television from their home.

Charging Considerations

The state of Tennessee tends to qualify for the charge of shoplifting when the stolen items in question get valued below the $1,000 mark. Based on that metric, a person could attempt to steal a patio set valued at $900 from a department store and face a misdemeanor charge, even though the item in question would be quite large.

However, Tennessee law enforcement has the option of grouping concurrent shoplifting charges together to increase the overall value of the items, which can dramatically increase the penalties. So if an individual stole $500 worth of goods from one store and $600 from another store, the combined charges would put the charges over the $1,000 mark and move the charge up to a felony.

The theft of services, such as dining and dashing or not paying a bill for services rendered, generally does not operate under the combined value metric, mostly because services tend to be valued on a less-stringent scale than goods. As such, it can be difficult to assign shoplifting charges for running out on a bill. However, theft charges can apply should the crime in question show a pattern of repeated targeting by the accused (meaning, the accused person routinely engages in service theft from the same service providers).


  • Class A Felony

$250,000 or more in total item value, punishable by a maximum of 60 years in prison and $50,000 in fines.

  • Class B Felony

For items valued between $60,000 to $250,000. 30 years maximum prison sentence and $25,000 in fines.

  • Class C Felony

$10,000 to $60,000 in goods can mean 15 years and $10,000 in fines.

  • Class D Felony

If the total amount falls between $2,500 to $10,000, the maximum jail sentence stops at 12 years and $5,000 in fines.

  • Class E Felony

The lightest felony charge applies from $1,000 to $2,500 in total value and carries the penalties of 6 years maximum jail time and $3,000.

  • Class A Misdemeanor

Don’t let the misdemeanor charge fool you: conviction for stealing $1,000 or less; jail time includes one year and a $2,500 maximum fine.

Got Questions?

Even though the penalties seem straightforward, the unique specifics of every charge can benefit from professional legal services. Having a experienced defense lawyer like Murfreesboro attorney David Clarke will be important. To learn more, contact The Clarke Law Firm today.