Tennessee Shoplifting Law Excerpts

Title 39 — Criminal Offenses

39-14-144. Civil liability of adult, parent or guardian for theft of retail merchandise by minor.

(a) If the appropriate district attorney general consents to use of this section as provided in subsection (i), in lieu of any criminal penalties imposed by § 39-14-105 for theft offenses, any adult or parent or guardian of a minor who willfully takes possession of merchandise from a retail merchant with the intent to convert the merchandise to personal use without paying the purchase price shall be subject to civil liability, should the merchant prevail, as follows:

(1) For the adult or emancipated minor:

(A) The greater of one hundred dollars ($100) or an amount three (3) times the listed retail price of the merchandise taken if the merchant does not recover the merchandise;

(B) The greater of one hundred dollars ($100) or an amount three (3) times the difference between the value of the damaged merchandise and the value of the merchandise prior to its conversion if the merchant recovers the merchandise but it is in a damaged state; or

(C) The greater of one hundred dollars ($100) or an amount twice the listed retail price of the merchandise if the merchant recovers the merchandise in the same condition it was in prior to the conversion; or

(2) For the parent or legal guardian having custody of an unemancipated minor who has been negligent in the supervision of the unemancipated minor:

(A) The greater of one hundred dollars ($100) or an amount three (3) times the listed retail price of the merchandise taken if the merchant does not recover the merchandise;

(B) The greater of one hundred dollars ($100) or an amount three (3) times the difference between the value of the damaged merchandise and the value of the merchandise prior to its conversion if the merchant recovers the merchandise but it is in a damaged state; or

(C) The greater of one hundred dollars ($100) or an amount twice the listed retail price of the merchandise if the merchant recovers the merchandise in the same condition it was in prior to the conversion.

(b) Civil liability under this section is not limited by any other law concerning the liability of parents or guardians or minors.

(c) A conviction for the offense of shoplifting is not a prerequisite to the maintenance of a civil action authorized by this section.

(d) The fact that a mercantile establishment may bring an action against an individual as provided in this section shall not limit the right of such establishment to demand, orally or in writing, that a person who is liable for damages and penalties under this section remit the damages prior to the consideration of the commencement of any legal action.

(e) An action for recovery of damages and penalties under this section may be brought in any court of competent jurisdiction, including a court of general sessions, if the total damages do not exceed the jurisdictional limit of the court involved.

(f) If a written agreement is entered into between the merchant and the person responsible for damages and penalties pursuant to this section concerning the liability of such person and the payment of such damages and penalties, the agreement and the contents thereof shall remain confidential as long as the parties to such agreement continue to adhere to its terms.

(g) The civil remedy conferred upon merchants by the provisions of this section shall not apply if the listed retail price of the merchandise taken was in excess of five hundred dollars ($500).

(h) Use of the civil remedy conferred upon merchants by the provisions of this section shall not be construed to be a violation of § 39-16-604, prohibiting the compounding of an offense.

(i) Any demand in writing or other document sent to the adult, parent or guardian of a minor covered by this section shall also be sent to the district attorney general of the judicial district in which the offense occurred. If the appropriate district attorney general has not, within ten (10) days from the date the document was sent, objected to the use of this section in lieu of criminal prosecution, such district attorney general shall be deemed to have consented to the use of this section by the mercantile establishment. If the mercantile establishment does not send a written demand or other document to such adult, parent or guardian, the district attorney general must be notified and must consent, either orally or in writing, to the use of this section in lieu of criminal prosecution.

(j) Whenever a retail merchant, the merchant’s agent, or the merchant’s employee apprehends an adult or minor who has committed theft as described in subsection (a), such merchant, agent, or employee shall not at such time enter into any written agreement to accept civil damages in lieu of criminal penalties or actually accept any such civil damages.

39-14-145. Civil liability of employees for theft of retail merchandise

(a) If the appropriate district attorney general consents to use of this section as provided in subsection (e), in lieu of any criminal penalties imposed by § 39-14-105 for theft offenses, any employee of a retail merchant who willfully takes possession of merchandise from such retail merchant with the intent to convert the merchandise to personal use without paying the purchase price shall be subject to civil liability should the merchant prevail as follows:

(1) The greater of one hundred dollars ($100) or an amount three (3) times the listed retail price of the merchandise taken if the merchant does not recover the merchandise;

(2) The greater of one hundred dollars ($100) or an amount three (3) times the difference between the value of the damaged merchandise and the value of the merchandise prior to its conversion if the merchant recovers the merchandise but it is in a damaged state; or

(3) The greater of one hundred dollars ($100) or an amount twice the listed retail price of the merchandise if the merchant recovers the merchandise in the same condition it was in prior to the conversion.

(b) The civil remedy conferred upon merchants by the provisions of this section shall not apply if the listed retail price of the merchandise taken was in excess of five hundred dollars ($500).

(c) If a written agreement is entered into between the merchant and the person responsible for damages and penalties pursuant to this section concerning the liability of such person and the payment of such damages and penalties, the agreement and the contents thereof shall remain confidential as long as the parties to such agreement continue to adhere to its terms.

(d) Use of the civil remedy conferred upon merchants by the provisions of this section shall not be construed to be a violation of § 39-16-604, prohibiting the compounding of an offense.

(e) Any demand in writing or other document sent to an employee covered by this section shall also be sent to the district attorney general of the judicial district in which the offense occurred. If the appropriate district attorney general has not, within ten (10) days from the date the document was sent, objected to the use of this section in lieu of criminal prosecution, such district attorney general shall be deemed to have consented to the use of this section by the mercantile establishment. If the mercantile establishment does not send a written demand or other document to such employee, the district attorney general must be notified and must consent, either orally or in writing, to the use of this section in lieu of criminal prosecution.

(f) Whenever a retail merchant, the merchant’s agent or the merchant’s employee apprehends an employee who has committed theft as described in subsection (a), such merchant, agent or employee shall not at such time enter into any written agreement to accept civil damages in lieu of criminal penalties or actually accept any such civil damages.

39-14-146. Theft of property – Conduct involving merchandise

(a) For purposes of § 39-14-103, a person commits theft of property if such person, with the intent to deprive a merchant of the stated price of merchandise, knowingly commits any of the following acts:

(1) Conceals the merchandise;

(2) Removes, takes possession of, or causes the removal of merchandise;

(3) Alters, transfers or removes any price marking, or any other marking which aids in determining value affixed to the merchandise;

(4) Transfers the merchandise from one (1) container to another; or

(5) Causes the cash register or other sales recording device to reflect less than the merchant’s stated price for the merchandise.

(b) In a theft prosecution under this section, unless applicable, the state is not required to prove that the defendant obtained or exercised control over the merchandise as required in a prosecution under § 39-14-103

40-7-116. Theft – Detention of suspect by merchant or peace officer.

(a) A merchant or a merchant’s employee or agent or a peace officer who has probable cause to believe that a person has committed or is attempting to commit the offense of theft, as defined in § 39-14-103, may detain such person on or off the premises of the mercantile establishment if such detention is done for any or all of the following purposes:

(1) To question the person, investigate the surrounding circumstances, obtain a statement, or any combination thereof;

(2) To request or verify identification, or both;

(3) To inform a peace officer of the detention of such person, or surrender that person to the custody of a peace officer, or both;

(4) To inform a peace officer, the parent or parents, guardian or other private person interested in the welfare of a minor of the detention and to surrender the minor to the custody of such person; or

(5) To institute criminal proceedings against the person.

(b) Probable cause to suspect that a person has committed or is attempting to commit the offense of theft may be based on, but not limited to:

(1) Personal observation, including observation via closed circuit television or other visual device;

(2) Report of such personal observation from another merchant;

(3) Activation of an electronic or other type of mechanical device designed to detect theft; or

(4) Personal observation of dressing rooms, including observation via closed circuit television, two-way mirrors, or other visual devices shall be limited to observation by a person of the same sex as the person being observed. No such observation shall be lawful unless notices are posted in such dressing rooms that such monitoring may occur.

(c) A merchant or a merchant’s employee or agent or a peace officer who detains, questions or causes the arrest of any person suspected of theft shall not be criminally or civilly liable for any legal action relating to such detention, questioning or arrest if the merchant or merchant’s employee or agent or peace officer:

(1) Has reasonable grounds to suspect that the person has committed or is attempting to commit theft;

(2) Acts in a reasonable manner under the circumstances; and

(3) Detains the suspected person for a reasonable period of time.

(d) The merchant may use a reasonable amount of force necessary to protect such merchant, to prevent escape of the person detained, or to prevent the loss or destruction of property.

(e) A reasonable period of time, for the purposes of this section, is a period of time long enough to accomplish the purpose set forth in this section, and shall include any time spent awaiting the arrival of a law enforcement officer or the parents or guardian of a juvenile suspect, if the merchant or the merchant’s employee or agent has summoned such law enforcement officer, parents or guardian.

40-7-117. Theft of property valued at more than $500 in retail or wholesale establishments – Arrest by peace officer without warrant.

Any peace officer may arrest without warrant any person the officer has probable cause for believing has committed theft of property with a value of more than five hundred dollars ($500) in retail or wholesale establishments. “Probable cause,” as used in this section, includes, but is not limited to, the statement of a merchant containing facts and circumstances demonstrating that the officer relied on the elements enumerated in § 40-7-116(b).

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