Criminal Defense: How to Handle Shoplifting Charges

Retailers may experience a variety of crimes, but shoplifting is, by far, the most prevalent. Although these offenses are common, they’re not to be taken lightly. Based on the monetary value of the article shoplifted and the previous record of the accused, the penalties imposed can often be severe.

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Shoplifting can mean more than just taking an item without paying for it. The criminal offenses covered include:

  • Getting goods from shops without paying for them.
  • Eating or drinking something from a store without paying.
  • Swapping, removing, or altering price tags to pay a lower price.
  • Leaving a restaurant without paying.

How is Shoplifting Charged and Punished?

In quite a few places, taking away an item from a store without paying for it falls under the section of ‘theft’ or ‘larceny’. Most charges depend on the value of the article, with punishment ranging from 10 days of community service to imprisonment and hefty fines for theft of items with large retail amounts.  Many large retailers have a zero-tolerance policy that demands a person to be prosecuted to the fullest extent.

Despite the frequency of these crimes, people are generally unaware of how such situations must be handled. In this article, we’ve put together five things a person can do when accused of shoplifting:

  1. Remain Calm

When accused of shoplifting, it’s best to remain calm and not try to escape the situation. You could politely comply with the shopkeeper’s requests and simply state that you’re willing to wait for the police or your legal counsel to arrive. Always remember that cooperation doesn’t mean you have to put up with requests that violate your rights.

  1. Learn Your Rights

In the panic and discomfort that may arise from these situations, you might fail to recognize unconstitutional means being used against you. Sometimes, knowing and identifying these requests can help you handle a situation better. A few rights that every individual has in these situations include the following:

  • The right to remain silent and not answer questions until police or a lawyer is present.
  • The right to request for police or a lawyer at any time.
  • The right to refuse a bag search by security personnel of the store.
  • The right to refuse to be detained. A store can’t use force or power for your detainment unless provided for.

You could check out a video here to learn about this:


  1. Get Your Story Right

It’s essential to recount events as they happened. In the case of low value misplaced products, misunderstandings can be cleared quickly with clear dialogue and cooperation.

However, do keep in mind that innocent explanations can sometimes be used as incriminating evidence or a confession. In which case, the presence of your criminal defense lawyer is beneficial.

  1. Evidence Safety

For detaining you, the store must have a reasonable cause and should be able to provide evidence for the same, such as surveillance videos or other witnesses. It’s crucial to ensure evidence that proves your innocence, such as a receipt.

If you were at the crime scene, take account of the people who were present. It can be useful for your legal counsel, should you need it.

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  1. Get a Lawyer

Misunderstandings can generally be resolved by using the methods given above. But sometimes, when dealing with a tricky employee or business, you may find yourself at a disadvantage. There can be situations where a product ends up in your possession or on your person accidentally, and the store assumes that you were stealing it. If the retail establishment is unwilling to discuss the issue politely, it’s best to hire a lawyer.

If charges are pressed, a skilled and expert defense attorney can represent you to reduce or get the charges dropped altogether. They can also review your case with patience to go over all your available options and to educate you on your rights and ensure none of them are violated during the procedure. Remember, you have the right to an attorney at all times, so if it puts you at ease, calling an attorney right at the beginning isn’t a bad idea.

Bottom-line

If you’ve found yourself in a particularly unfavorable situation, it’s ideal to know your rights so that you’re not taken for granted. Remaining calm and having a defense lawyer can be extremely useful when trying to get yourself out of a sticky situation. A skilled defense attorney can be your best bet to extricate you from uncomfortable circumstances in more ways than one.


Interesting related article: “What is a Lawyer?”