6 Steps to Take If You Are Accused of Shoplifting

6 Steps to Take If You Are Accused of Shoplifting

In 2019 alone, retail stores lost about $61.7 billion as a result of what the industry calls “shrinkage.” Most of this loss is the result of theft and shoplifting. With so much money on the line, it’s no wonder that store owners and managers are on the lookout for possible shoplifting activities each day.

Though their watchfulness can help keep more of their inventory from disappearing, it can lead to an increase in shoplifting accusations that may or may not be accurate.

If you’re accused of shoplifting from a store, you need to know what to do to protect yourself. Here are a few key steps that you’ll want to follow as soon as an employee calls you out.

1. Stay Calm

When you’re accused of wrongdoing, the immediate knee-jerk reaction is to get angry and to argue your case as soon as the accusation gets made. Unfortunately, this can make things worse, and making a scene often escalates the situation and gets the police involved.

Instead, stay calm. If you’re worried about your temper, don’t offer any information other than your name. Stay quiet and be as respectful as you can given the situation.

Remember, the people in the store are just doing their jobs. They’re likely not out to get you.

2. Stay Put

It’s tempting to walk away from the store especially if you’re innocent. But doing so can end up getting you in more trouble in the long run.

Instead of leaving the scene or walking away from store security, wait. By being willing to stay and interact with security, you make yourself look less guilty of shoplifting. Even better, security may assess the situation and be able to find a resolution if you’re still in the store.

If those security guards detain you in a way that you feel violates your rights, you can contest their actions in court should your case go to trial.

3. Be Understanding

When you’re accused of doing something, it’s easy to get defensive and angry. But letting your temper get the best of you can end up making the situation worse. Instead, remember that the store is doing what it can to protect the business.

This means they can and will make mistakes. Try to remember where they’re coming from and stay calm when they start questioning your actions.

If you bought the item somewhere else and had it with you in the store, show them the receipt for your recent purchase. If you’re confused about why they’re accusing you of something you didn’t do, ask them to explain the situation.

You may be able to correct their assumptions by simply asking them to explain what they thought they saw. But you can only do this if you try to put yourself in their shoes and view the situation from their perspective.

4. Don’t Say Anything to Imply That You’re Guilty

Just because you have the right to explain your actions doesn’t mean that you have to. And in some cases, doing so can end up making the situation much worse.

Why? Because it’s easy to say the wrong thing and accidentally imply that you’re guilty even when you’re innocent. This can make matters difficult if you try to defend yourself against the shoplifting charge.

Instead, pay attention to the way the store’s employees are acting. If they’re continuing to accuse you of shoplifting, stop trying to explain your innocence.

Instead, turn the tables on their questioning. Ask the store manager or their security team to explain why they think you were shoplifting.  

If they can’t justify their charges or simply noticed that you were holding the item while you were in the store, they have nothing to back up the allegations. This can be enough to get them to back down.

If they keep pushing and insisting that you stole something from their store, just be quiet and wait for the police to arrive. When they do, let them know that you’d like to consult with your attorney before you explain your actions further.

5. Refuse to Sign Anything

Some stores and store managers may ask you to sign a written agreement that you won’t come back into the store again as a result of the shoplifting accusation. You don’t have to sign anything, and you shouldn’t.

Signing that agreement is the same as effectively admitting guilt.

If they insist that you sign a document, tell them that you won’t sign anything until your attorney reviews the agreement.

6. Contact a Shoplifting Defense Lawyer

The most important thing you can do when you’re accused of shoplifting is to contact a defense lawyer to represent your case. This shoplifting attorney should have experience working on cases like yours and will be able to review the accusations against you, fast.

If it’s clear that you didn’t steal anything, they’ll likely be able to get the charges against you dismissed. If you did steal something, either accidentally or intentionally, they’ll do what they can to reduce the severity of the charges you’re facing.

Even better, they’ll be able to represent you in court should your case go before a judge. When you have a legal professional on your side, you’ll be better equipped to mount a theft defense.

Shoplifting Is a Serious Allegation

Shoplifting may not seem like a serious crime, but it can disrupt your life. If you’re accused of shoplifting anything, whether it’s a small-value item or an expensive piece of equipment, follow these steps.

As long as you remember to be calm, avoid admitting fault, and contact an attorney as soon as you can, you’ll be in good shape.

If you do end up dealing with a complicated court case regarding your alleged shoplifting, don’t panic. Check out our latest posts for more tips to help you navigate the legal process with confidence.

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Christophe Rude

Christophe Rude

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