Legal Info


Though shoplifting may not sound like a terribly serious crime, Tennessee law does not view it as a small matter. This doesn’t mean you have to worry about the electric chair for stealing some candy, but it’s important to understand that theft is not treated as a mere slap on the wrist.

Civil penalties

When a person commits theft from a store in Tennessee and local prosecutors do not insist on pressing charges, the store owner is allowed to request a civil penalty from the offender instead of pursuing a criminal case for theft. This is often a solution used in shoplifting cases.

If the merchandise is never recovered or is returned in a damaged condition, the thief will be responsible for paying a penalty that is the greater of either $100 or three times the amount of the damage to the merchandise. However, if the merchandise is recovered and is still in sellable condition, the penalty will either be $100 or two times the retail price of the merchandise.

It’s important to note that this civil penalty option is only possible in cases where the listed retail price of the stolen item or items is less than $500.

Serious criminal penalties

As with other states, a shoplifting charge in Tennessee is considered a theft offense and is penalized according to the value of the goods you are accused of taking. The table below shows the theft charges most commonly brought against shoplifters:

Value Charge Maximum Penalty
$500 or less Class A Misdemeanor 1 year in jail and $2,500 in fines
$500 to $1,000 Class E Felony 1-6 years in prison and $3,000 in fines
$1,000 to $10,000 Class D Felony 2-12 years in prison and $5,000 in fines
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