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Alabama stiffened penalties on retail thieves – it’s proving effective

According to the Alabama Retail Association, the retail theft crime prevention law passed by state lawmakers last year is proving to be effective.

“We’ve had arrests in Cullman, and in Mobile, and in Hoover,” Nancy Dennis told WSFA. “There are people who will steal from retailers in various ways, then they will sell it online at a lesser price…The goal is to hopefully make these kinds of incidents be less and less.”

Under this law, all shoppers became subject to a charge of retail theft if their intent is to knowingly take merchandise without paying for it or to deprive the merchant of all or part of the merchandise’s value. Knowing intent includes any of the following.

“Retail thieves feared no jail time or even arrest” before this legislation, said Alabama Retail Association President Rick Brown. “The sheer volume of goods walking out of stores without being purchased was driving up the cost of goods bought legally and causing stores, small and big, to consider closing or moving elsewhere.”

RELATED: Alabama adds teeth to retail theft law

Taking possession of two or more items of retail merchandise by concealing it in any way, altering or removing the label, price tag or any other markings that aid in determining the value of retail merchandise and purchasing, or attempting to purchase, the merchandise at less than its value:

  • Transferring merchandise from one container to another with the intent to purchase the merchandise at less than its value.
  • Causing the cash register or other sales recording device to reflect less than the value of the merchandise.
  • Causing the amount paid to be less than the stated price.
  • Failing to scan the barcode and pay for merchandise at a cash register or self-checkout register.
  • Altering, disabling or removing any security or alarm device attached to or housing the merchandise prior to its purchase.
  • Removing or causing the removal of merchandise from the premises.
  • Collaborating with an employee to commit any of the above.

First-degree offenses include (1) retail theft of more than $2,500 in merchandise; (2) retail theft of one or more items during a 180-day period with an aggregate value of $1,000 or more; and (3) theft of a gun of any value. First-degree retail theft is a Class B felony.

Retail theft between $500 and $2,500 is a second-degree offense and a Class C felony. Retail theft that does not exceed $500 is a third-degree offense and a Class A misdemeanor. Four or more convictions for retail theft would be a Class C felony.

The law also made organized retail theft an aggravated form of retail theft and a Class B felony. It is considered organized retail theft. The law designates these values and time periods to the theft of one or more items as organized retail theft:

  • More than $2,500 in a one-year or longer period.
  • $1,000 or more during a 180-day period.
  • $500 or more during a 30-day period.

Thieves who have stolen $2,500 or more in goods now face a Class B felony and thieves who are caught four or more times for stealing any amount of goods receive a Class C felony.

Michael Brauner is a Senior Sports Analyst and Contributing Writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @MBraunerWNSP and hear him every weekday morning from 6 to 9 a.m. on “The Opening Kickoff” on WNSP-FM 105.5, available free online

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