Felony Larceny by Removing Anti-Shoplifting Device

Posted by Sean Cecil | Feb 12, 2016 | 7 Comments

As I am still fairly new to the North Carolina Bar and the practice of criminal defense here in NC, I was surprised to recently be in a consultation with an individual whose petty shoplifting allegation was charged as a felony because of the additional allegation that he had removed a security device.  Shoplifting in North Carolina can be charged as a felony if the value of the goods stolen exceeds $1,000.00. It can also be a felony in some other circumstances, including if the person has four or more prior convictions for larceny. 

Under North Carolina General Statute Sect. 14-72.11(2), a person is guilty of a Class H felony if the person commits larceny against a merchant "by removing, destroying, or deactivating a component of an anti-shoplifting or inventory control device to prevent the activation of any anti-shoplifting or inventory control device." In my recent case, it turned out that the "anti-shoplifting device" in question was a piece of plastic designed to prevent removal of the merchandise (in this case, a small electronic device). The police report confirmed this, alleging that the accused "defeated two anti theft devices by cutting the merchandise from the anti-theft ring or hook it was attached to." 

Obviously, it is important to read criminal statutes very carefully, piece by piece. By my reading of the statute, an essential element of felony shoplifting involving tampering with anti-theft device is the purpose of the tampering: to prevent activation of the device. In my mind, this requires a device that can be "activated," such as an exploding dye pack or a magnetic strip that sets off alarms if not deactivated. The device my client was accused of tampering with was, in my mind, a "passive" security device because there was no way to activate it or tamper with it to prevent its activation. By my reading of the statute, my client was innocent of any felonious behavior and the case was overcharged as a felony. Research revealed no direct guidance from the courts, so I took the argument to the assigned prosecutor. She was not particularly interested in the issue so much as my client's record, and possibly sensing a fight over a relatively minor factual scenario, rather reasonably agreed to allow us to enter a misdemeanor deferral agreement whereby my client would secure dismissal of the case if he stayed out of trouble for six months, paid restitution, and performed some community service. If he failed the agreement, his greatest exposure was to a misdemeanor conviction. I had already decided that, based on the known facts, the best we could hope to accomplish was to beat the felony allegation, so we accepted the offer rather than push further. 

In my mind, it seems rather arbitrary to increase the severity of a shoplifting charge to a felony merely because there was an anti-shoplifting device involved. I have recently begun building more of a criminal defense practice, and would be happy to argue in a different case that removal of a "passive" security device does not meet the essential elements of felony shoplifting. I provide free consultations regarding criminal charges or investigations (I prefer to get involved in cases prior to formal charges being filed) and am charging reduced rates as I build my familiarity with the system here in North Carolina. 

About the Author

Sean Cecil

Sean is an experienced advocate dedicated to justice for all people. He believes that individual human rights outweigh the freedom to make an easy dollar.


Ronald James Reply

Posted Jan 10, 2018 at 01:13:29

i had an incident where the clerk failed to remove the device after i asked him to remove the device and showed him proof of purchase. upon exiting the alarm went off.Security and i went back to point of purchase and removed the devices. i asked why the clerk did not remove the device and security said he may have forgot. i have filed an online complaint.

Charles Romano Reply

Posted Sep 24, 2018 at 09:24:45

I’m curious about exactly how the statute reads. I was charged with the exact defense and if the video is reviewed it clearly shows that I simply left the establishment with said merchandise and security device intact. However, my attorney says that they will not come off the felony due to the fact that any theft involving an item with a security devices at felony regardless of the removal of the device or tampering with it in any way. From what I’ve read it seems to me that as long as I did not remove or Tampa Bay Rays that as long as the monetary value is under $1,000 then I should be charged with misdemeanor offense. Can you please clarify this.

Sean Cecil Reply

Posted Sep 24, 2018 at 10:07:00

Ouch. What jurisdiction/court are you in? The exact statutory language is in the main body of the post:

“A person is guilty of a Class H felony if the person commits larceny against a merchant under any of the following circumstances: … (2) By removing, destroying, or deactivating a component of an antishoplifting or inventory control device to prevent the activation of any antishoplifting or inventory control device.”

Brooke Scott Reply

Posted Apr 03, 2020 at 17:10:46

Can you please tell me the max amount of time for misdemeanor larceny and felony removal of security device. No prior convictions for the felony although I’m a felon

Sean Cecil Reply

Posted Apr 06, 2020 at 07:46:13

Hi Brooke,

The answers to both of your questions depend on your criminal history. For the felony charge, the court would calculate your “prior record level” to determine the available disposition. Since removing a security device is a Class ‘H’ felony, a person with no prior record level or just one point would be looking at a possible 17 month maximum guidelines sentence. That is different from the statutory max, but absent aggravating factors (which must be plead and proven) the maximum sentence someone with a prior record level of 1 would be 17 months.

Likewise, for a misdemeanor larceny, which is a Class 1 misdemeanor, if you have no prior convictions (making you level 1) the max you could get would be 45 days. However, if you are level 3 (5 or more prior misdemeanor convictions) the max would be 120 days.

Sentencing involves nuance, and having a dedicated defense lawyer is very helpful. Good luck!


Ecaf rekcuf Reply

Posted Apr 13, 2022 at 06:53:54

What are the sentence guidelines for removal of an antitheft device in north Carolina

Sean Cecil Reply

Posted Apr 13, 2022 at 07:20:28

Well like I any good lawyer answer, “that depends.” Mostly on the criminal history of the accused. On the grid, you find someone’s criminal history score and offense classification and you will find three ranges: mitigated, presumptive, and aggravated. The presumptive sentences is the mid-point of the presumptive range. Then you look at the felony punishment chart “minimum and maximum” and find the range of the actual sentence. A convict will serve the maximum, but can get credits toward the minimum, by working, taking classes, etc. And, 9 months are spent in “post-release” a form of probation/parole. Punishment chart can be found here.:

So since it’s an H felony, someone with a criminal history category II (easy to get to) will presumptively have a 7 month minimum sentence, which will result in a min/max of 7-18 months. Hope that helps!

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