Tennessee Law Can Charge Banned Shoplifters with Felonies

Tennessee law can charge shoplifters with felonies if caught at store after being banned

Tennessee appellate court upheld a decision to charge misdemeanor shoplifters with felonies if caught shoplifting at a store from which they have been banned.

Law enforcement officers said the holiday season is when shoplifters will take advantage of the crowds and sneak out of stores with merchandise.

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Former Shelby County Deputy Mike Collins said shoplifting is a crime of opportunity.

"A person is going to commit those offenses regardless. If you put a law on the book or not,” Collins said.

The opportunity may get misdemeanor repeat offenders in jail serving felony time.

In October, a state appellate court went in favor of a state against a man who said his constitutional due process was violated.

"Probably need to address the underlying issue of why that person continues to violate the law,” Collins said.

Police arrested the man after security at a Knoxville Walmart caught him shoplifting for the third time.

Two previous times he was charged with misdemeanors.

The third time, after being banned from the store, prosecutors charged the man with a felony burglary charge.

"The Three strikes program such as this didn't work in the past, and I don't think they will work in the current,” Collins said.

According to the Tennessee Burglary Statue, a person can commit a burglary without breaking into anything.

The common law requirement of breaking in has been replaced by “entering without the owner’s consent.”

According to the Memphis Police online database, there have been 365 shopliftings reported in the last three months: 22 of them felonies and 343 misdemeanors.

"Probably need to address the underlying issue of why that person continues to violate the law,” Collins said.

The Shelby County District Attorney’s Office has not answered our request on if this interpretation of the law is used here in Shelby County.

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