For third year, Legislature chooses not to act on making shoplifting a separate crime in Alabama

Companion bills that would have created a separate crime of shoplifting in Alabama and regulate recordkeeping for dealers of third-party stored value cards were introduced the final week of April, despite the lack of time needed for the bills to advance in the 2021 session. The bills would have defined third-party cards as a stored value card for which “the merchant buying or selling the card is not the corporate issuer and is not a corporate issuer agent or a corporate authorized reseller.”

SB405 and HB646 also sought to create an organized retail theft law in Alabama. Organized retail theft has been a felony in Alabama since 2006. Both bills did not receive a committee hearing, so they did not advance in the 2021 session.

Legislation introduced early in the 2021 session to create a separate crime of shoplifting had been ready for consideration by the full Senate since March 3, but it too did not receive a floor vote.

On 6-3 vote, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved SB48 by Sen. Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville. The same committee approved similar legislation by Chambliss in the 2020 session, but the session was cut short by COVID-19 before it made to the Senate floor. An identical bill gained approval from the Alabama Senate in the 2019 regular session but never made it to the House for debate.

SB48 would have allowed for in-store arrests, rather than waiting until the suspect steps outside the building without purchasing merchandise. The punishments, fines and felony threshold for shoplifting would have remained the same as they are under the current theft statute.

Anyone, acting alone or with another person, would have been subject to a charge of shoplifting if their intent was to knowingly take the merchandise without paying for it or to deprive the merchant of all or part of the merchandise’s value. Knowing intent includes doing any of the following:

  • Taking possession, or attempting to take possession, of two or more items of retail merchandise by concealing it in any way.
  • Altering, transferring 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.
  • Failing to scan the barcode and pay for merchandise at a self-checkout register.
  • Altering, disabling or removing any security or alarm device attached to or holding the merchandise prior to its purchase.

This article is part of the Alabama Retail Report, a communication for Alabama Retail Association members. Not a member? Join us!

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