Is it a crime to change price tags?

On Behalf of | Dec 8, 2021 | criminal defense |

The cost of living has increased significantly over the past year. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the price of a home-cooked meal is now almost 2% more expensive than it was just one year ago. If you want to eat in a restaurant, you can expect to pay roughly 6% more.

If you cannot afford what you need to survive, it may be tempting to switch price tags. That is, you may try to swap the tag on an expensive item with one from a cheaper item. Doing so, though, may land you in handcuffs.

Price switching is theft

Even if you pay something at the cash register, price switching to pay a lower price is theft. In South Dakota, the charges you may face likely depend on the value of the item. If you underpay by up to $400, prosecutors may charge you with petty theft, which is a misdemeanor. If you take substantially more, however, you may have to defend yourself against felony charges.

You may have a defense

If you are facing criminal charges for theft, you may have a reasonable defense. A lack of intent is a common one in price-switching cases. Specifically, you may not have intended to steal from the shopowner. The price also may not have been clear. Put simply, if you believe you are paying the correct price for an item, you are probably not guilty of theft.

Ultimately, because a theft conviction may give you a criminal record for the rest of your life, it is advisable to explore all possible defense options before going to trial or accepting a plea deal.