Somerset woman shouldn’t face felony for $80 in shoplifting at Walmart, Kentucky Supreme Court says

Published 3:27 pm Monday, September 26, 2022

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The Kentucky Supreme Court has thrown out an unlawful access to a computer conviction against a woman who scanned bar codes of items cheaper than the ones she was taking from a Walmart self-serve checkout. Woman shouldn’t face felony for $80 in shoplifting at Walmart, Ky. Supreme Court says

According to Court documents, on Oct. 5, 2018, Chasity Shirley shopped at a Walmart store in Somerset, using a self-checkout register. Loss prevention personnel, using security cameras, observed her moving a rug and a couch slipcover across the register’s scanner. However, the computer monitoring the register indicated that Shirley was purchasing other less expensive items, a toothbrush or toothbrush holder, with a total difference in the price of $80.80.

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She was convicted of unlawful access to a computer at Pulaski Circuit Court, a Class C felony punishable by 5-10 years in prison. After spending 203 days in jail, Shirley was sentenced to five years in prison, but the sentence was suspended, placing her on conditional discharge for 30 days.

A three-judge Court of Appeals panel reversed the conviction 2-1, saying Shirley retained the effective consent of Walmart when she used the self-checkout register for its intended purpose, i.e., to scan barcodes and to buy items.

Prosecutors appealed that ruling, arguing the Court of Appeals expanded the definition of “effective consent” to include not only Walmart’s consent to use self-checkout registers to purchase items at the listed price, but also for sales because of admitted retail fraud. As before the trial court, Walmart emphasized that it does not consent to customers using self-checkout registers to commit fraud and steal merchandise.

The Justices agreed with the Court of Appeals there were more appropriate charges, such as theft by deception or theft by unlawful taking. They also pointed out the value of property taken in this case, less than $500, would constitute a misdemeanor, a level of criminal offense far more in keeping with the action than a Class C felony.

In a unanimous 7-0 decision on Thursday, the high court affirmed the appeals court ruling and remanded the case back to Pulaski Circuit Court for proceedings consistent with their opinion.