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How innocent people can wind up charged with shoplifting

| Aug 10, 2020 | criminal defense

Shoplifting, sometimes also called retail theft or retail fraud, is one of the more common forms of theft crime. Quite a few people, especially rebellious teenagers, might not think of shoplifting as an offense with a victim. Stealing from a corporation may seem like a harmless act that has no impact on anyone when, in reality, it affects job stability for workers and retail prices for other customers.

Not everyone accused of shoplifting made a conscious decision to take something from a store. There are many ways in which an individual could wind up facing shoplifting charges despite having no intention to steal from a business.

You forget about an item on your cart or after trying it on

While wandering through the aisles of a big box store and waiting for your spouse to help your children pick out a new pair of shoes, maybe you wandered over into the jewelry department to try on rings or were checking out some new designer sunglasses.

It’s all too easy to push those sunglasses up onto the top of your head or turn around when your child calls your name, only to forget that you have that ring on your finger. Similarly, if you grab a large or heavy item off the store shelves and place it on the bottom rack of your cart, you might not notice it while going through the checkout line.

If security or loss prevention professionals stop you with items on your person or with items that you didn’t ring up on the bottom of your cart, you could wind up charged for that.

Changed or switched packaging and labels can look like fraud

People who try to shoplift will often do things like place one item inside of another item or even switch the labels and tags between items. That way, they can go through checkout, pay and potentially take a very valuable item home for a fraction of its actual price.

You could unknowingly pick up a pair of boots that have sunglasses shoved down in the toes or a kitchen canister with a couple of DVDs hidden inside. Similarly, that television that you want to surprise your husband with could have the label on it for a much smaller unit because someone else was trying to steal previously.

Typically, security or loss prevention professionals will wait for someone to exit a store before they try to detain them, but items worn on your person could justify them stopping you while you are still shopping. Individuals facing shoplifting charges without the intent to steal will want to explore all of their options for defending themselves.