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How Retail Theft and Drug Crimes Go Hand in Hand in Tennessee

Often, those who face the criminal justice system have received charges in more than just one area of crime. Sometimes these crimes are related to each other, and other times the discovery of one crime leads to the discovery of another, non-related criminal activity.

In Tennessee, law enforcement linked two seemingly separate crimes together, a revelation that resulted in a new state law. The two crimes involve retail theft and opioid drugs.

What is their connection?

Big box retailers complained about a high loss of revenue due to shoplifting, and further investigation led to the conclusion that the opioid epidemic is the driving force behind this shoplifting, which has reached the level of organized retail crime. One group steals merchandise, and another returns it in exchange for store gift cards. A last group is responsible for pawning off the cards for cash to pay for drugs. This chain of crimes naturally increases in frequency during the holiday season.

What does the new law do?

To fight the theft, a new bill passed in 2017 that defines organized retail crime and heightens the penalties of a conviction. Offenders will have to pay at least $300, and the court can try them as felons if they receive five convictions in two years. This change targets those shoplifting on a daily basis to feed a drug addiction. Felonies carry much greater consequences, so the hope is that the law will deter repeat offenses.

What does this mean for those facing charges?

The state is taking organized retail crime and the opioid epidemic seriously, so facing charges for either one, let alone both, means a strong defense is necessary to avoid harsh treatment. The value of the stolen goods and past criminal history also play a role in the possible penalties and options that may be available instead of jail time. 

Those who have been arrested for retail theft or opioid-related crimes should speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney.