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Tennessee Shoplifting Laws

Many states, including Tennessee, have a specific statute that addresses shoplifting, which occurs when merchandise is stolen from a retail store. While the specific conduct that is considered shoplifting will vary from one jurisdiction to another, it can often include a variety of acts, including not only taking the merchandise out of the store without paying but also altering a price tag or removing a security device. Shoplifting also usually requires the intent to steal something, meaning that if you accidentally rip off a tag, for example, it's not a punishable offense.

The Basics of Tennessee Shoplifting Laws

While conducting legal research will involve having to sort through legal jargon - especially when reading the actual statutes - the task can be eased by reading an overview of the statutes in plain English. In the chart that follows you can find both an overview of shoplifting laws in Tennessee as well as links to relevant statutes.


Tennessee Code, Title 39, Chapter 14, Part 1, Section 39-14-146 (Theft of Merchandise)

Defining the Offense

Shoplifting occurs when a person commits theft of property with the intent to deprive a merchant of the merchandise's stated price by knowingly:

  • Concealing or removing the merchandise;
  • Altering or removing any price marking on the merchandise;
  • Transferring the merchandise from one container to another;
  • Causing a sales recording device (i.e. cash register) to show less than the merchant's stated price;
  • Removing, destroying, deactivating, or evading a component of an anti-shoplifting device to commit or facilitate a theft;
  • Using an instrument, device, or container to commit or facilitate a theft; or
  • Activating or interfering with a fire alarm system to commit or facilitate a theft.
Charges and Penalties

The charges for shoplifting will be based on the provisions outlined in Section 39-14-105, and the authorized penalties are provided in Section 40-35-111.

Civil Liability

If the district attorney agrees, instead of criminal penalties, an adult or the parent/legal guardian of a minor can be held civilly liable if they willfully take possession of merchandise from a retail store with the intent to convert the merchandise to personal use without paying. Please see Section 39-14-144 for details on the civil penalties that can be imposed for shoplifting.

Related Statute(s)

Tennessee Code, Title 39, Chapter 14, Part 1, Section 39-14-145 (Civil Liability of Employees for Theft of Retail Merchandise)

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Tennessee Shoplifting Laws: Related Resources

For additional information and resources related to this topic, please visit the links listed below.

Facing Shoplifting Charges in Tennessee? Get Legal Help

While shoplifting doesn't seem too serious as far as crimes go, it shouldn't be taken lightly since a conviction can result in a criminal record. If you have questions about Tennessee shoplifting laws, or you've already been charged with shoplifting, it's a good idea to speak with a local criminal defense attorney to learn about your options.

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