Theft cases are common in Tennessee’s courts and are often prosecuted strictly, in part, due to policies of large retailers that press for convictions in shoplifting cases. There is not a separate crime in Tennessee of shoplifting from a store. Instead all theft of property cases are governed by Tennessee Code sections 39-14-103 and 105.

There are three things that the State would have to prove to convict someone of theft:

  1. That the Defendant intended to deprive the property owner of the property,
  2. That the Defendant obtained the property knowingly, and
  3. That the property owner did not give consent.

A dismissal or not guilty verdict would result of the State could not prove any of those three things beyond a reasonable doubt. The law also provides that if the Defendant honestly believed that he had a right to the property or that the property’s owner would consent to him taking the property, that the Defendant should be found not guilty.

The penalties for theft vary depending on the value of the property allegedly stolen.

  • Less that $500 is a class A misdemeanor, carrying a sentence of 11 months and 29 days.
  • Any theft over $500 is a felony and the penalties range from 1 year to 60 years, depending on the amount stolen and what, if any, prior convictions the Defendant has.

Aside from the legal consequences, theft cases of any amount are serious because they are likely to affect someone’s employability and have other negative consequences anytime a background check is run.

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