Caught Shoplifting? Here’s What You Must NEVER Do!

3 Takeaways from this article.

  • Refrain from signing any papers or making statements: Doing so can inadvertently turn an innocent situation into a shoplifting conviction.
  • Avoid discussing the incident with store managers, loss prevention personnel, or police officers: These discussions can complicate your case and lead to further charges.
  • Never admit to previous thefts: This can trigger additional investigations, charges, and potential penalties.

Shoplifting is an act that may seem simple but carries complex repercussions. Being caught shoplifting can lead to an encounter with loss prevention personnel, legal consequences, and a potential mark on your record. This article offers essential advice on what not to do if you find yourself in this situation, aiming to guide you through a process that might otherwise prove bewildering.

Hopefully, you are reading this list before you are caught shoplifting. These are the things you should never do when that day comes when you are stopped by lost prevention and taken into the backroom for a shoplifting charge. The backroom is where they will ask you about any previous items you have taken in the past and have you sign paperwork admitting your guilt. The last thing you want to do is have a criminal record for 4-5 shoplifting charges because of things that went missing weeks or months ago and have to pay for it.

1. Don’t sign any papers when you are Caught shoplifting

This item makes the list because it can turn an innocent person into a shoplifter. Not everyone who walks out of a store with unpaid merchandise is a shoplifter. Cashiers at stores routinely forget to check carts and containers, and security guards and loss prevention officers are often overzealous when stopping forgetful people who make an honest mistake.

Loss prevention will want to turn every incident into a misdemeanor theft and a shoplifting conviction.  Because of this, many loss prevention officers will try to get you to write a written statement. This statement will involve how you did it and explain why they should exercise discretion with you.

Explaining why they should exercise discretion with you is a trick to get you to admit. They are ruling out mistakes, and whatever you say will go into your state of mind. It’s important you do not fill this out and give a statement as it will rule out mistakes and turn a forgetting incidence into a conviction involving jail time and civil penalties. 

2. When Caught Shoplifting Never Talk to the Manager or Loss Prevention People

It’s important you do not talk about the facts of your case with the Manager of the store of Loss Prevention team when caught shoplifting. You need to know what is done has been done, and the time you are spending in the back room is about damage control. By damage control, you should save your version of events for your attorney. It is better not to say anything to the police officer than to try to pass a lie. Police officers dealing with shoplifters are generally nicer than loss prevention officers. 

Whatever you say can be twisted around and miscommunicated to the police officer as a confession of stealing. Police officers and lost prevention are experienced in the method of REED interogation. In addition, loss prevention can take your statements and put you on the scene of other shoplifting incidences, and start a review process. This, in turn, can start an additional investigation resulting in more charges. 

When you talk with eh police officers, you risk being put into scenario where they will ask you to search your car. If this happens then you are put into an awkward situation of saying yes to absolve guilt vs looking guilty. This is a natural progression of talking when you are caught shoplifting. The officers will request to inspect your mode of transportation or car if you find that you have car keys on you. In addition they will ask you about any new items inside your car that doe not have receipts. You can prevent this by asserting your right to remain silent.

shows a police report of a person caught shoplfiting
Police officers will question people who are caught shoplifting.

 3. Do not admit to previous theft when caught shoplifting

Some stores like Target pump millions into their anti-shoplifting systems and can review old footage and identify you.This one touches a little bit about the last tip. It’s important that you do implicate yourself for past incidences of shoplifting.  Many places like Disneyland and Target have state-of-the-art security systems with facial recognition software in their video footage. By letting loss prevention know of prior occurrences of shoplifting, you are cluing them into your past activities. This will cause them to look for any missing merchandise and cause them to go through any past shoplifting incident to prove theft charges.   

4. Representing Yourself in Court is the worst thing to do when caught shoplifting. 

When caught shoplifting from a store, the government will have a team of professionals to prosecute you. There will be loss prevention officers, police officers, and a trained lawyer compiling a case against you to get a criminal conviction.  The criminal process in Orange County Court involves several appearances. This is the case even if this is your first shoplifting incident and you are a first-time offender. 

You should do things the right way with a professional who will represent you in court.  Even if caught red-handed, there are ways to get you into programs and steer the case away from a criminal conviction. In addition, where there have been past incidences of shoplifting, those incidences mustn’t be discovered and turned into additional theft convictions or even a felony theft charge. Felony theft can be charged if you stole more than $950 in merchandise. 

5. When Caught Shoplifting, Do not Try to Wrestle Free. 

If you are caught shoplifting, you should not use force to effectuate an escape. Using force to push away the loss prevention officer, you can escalate a misdemeanor into a felony charge of robbery.  This type of robbery is called an estes Robbery. As a criminal defense attorney, I have seen the police department write these up as robberies—even when no one is hurt.  These are serious criminal penalties because instead of spending days in jail with a shoplifting charge, you are now looking at spending months in possibly over a year in jail for robbery. 

 It is much less stressful to deal with criminal charges of retail theft over a felony charge of robbery.  By doing using force, you are escalating the situation and forcing a more aggressive investigation.  You are making the police review security footage to identify you. In addition, if you got away, then you are forcing them to issue an arrest warrant to bring you into custody. 

What are the consequences of signing papers when caught shoplifting?

Signing papers after being caught shoplifting essentially means admitting guilt. When you’re detained on suspicion of shoplifting, your guilt or innocence is still in question. Moreover, by the time the case reaches court, it’s uncertain whether the loss prevention personnel who detained you will still be available as witnesses, given the high turnover rate in their industry. If a trial ensues, the District Attorney must locate these individuals for testimonies. If these individuals have since left their jobs, they might not be compensated for court appearances, complicating the prosecution’s case. However, an admission of guilt on your part can be used against you, even if the loss prevention personnel don’t testify.

Why is it crucial not to discuss the incident with store managers or loss prevention officers?

It’s vital to avoid making any admissions that could imply guilt. Anything you say can and will be used against you in court.

How can speaking with the police after being caught lead to further complications?

Conversing with the police after getting caught can exacerbate the situation. Such discussions can unveil past incidents that were previously undiscovered, potentially leading to multiple cases against you. Additionally, this could prompt further investigations, like a search of your vehicle, which might uncover stolen goods from other locations, leading to additional interrogations.

What risks do you face if you admit to previous thefts?

Admitting to previous thefts can expose you to added criminal charges. This can result in facing multiple charges, thereby heightening potential penalties.

Why is representing oneself in court a bad idea following a shoplifting incident?

Self-representation after a shoplifting incident is inadvisable because you may overlook crucial defense strategies. While facing a misdemeanor, there are specific measures that can mitigate penalties or even lead to case dismissal. For example, if the District Attorney seeks your DNA, you might inadvertently implicate yourself or family members in unrelated crimes. Moreover, without legal expertise, you may miss out on diversion programs that could help dismiss your case.

How does the value of stolen goods influence the charge and potential consequences?

The gravity of consequences is directly tied to the value of stolen items. In Orange County, there are specific thresholds, with $950 being one key level. The handling of the case can differ based on whether the stolen amount is higher or lower than this threshold. Another informal benchmark is around the $600 range. When the stolen value approaches this, the District Attorney’s approach might change, potentially revoking plea deals or demanding more to clear one’s criminal record.

What is an Estes Robbery, and how does it differ from a regular shoplifting charge?

An Estes Robbery transforms a simple shoplifting incident into a robbery through the application of force. This escalation often occurs when someone detained for shoplifting reacts aggressively or tries to flee, leading to a physical altercation. If force is employed to escape, the charge transitions to robbery, a felony. The jail time for an Estes Robbery can vary widely, ranging from 16 months up to three years if probation isn’t granted.

How can a criminal defense lawyer assist someone who’s been caught shoplifting?

A seasoned criminal defense attorney, especially one familiar with local court practices, can guide a shoplifting or Estes Robbery case through appropriate channels. With the right defense strategy, a conviction might be averted, preserving a clean criminal record. In cases of an Estes Robbery, an attorney can emphasize the reactionary nature of the event, aiming to secure probation, minimize, or even eliminate jail time.

Being caught shoplifting is an unnerving experience, and the aftermath can be daunting. However, by understanding the pitfalls and taking the right precautions, you can navigate the situation with minimal fallout. Remember to consult with a qualified criminal defense lawyer to ensure that your rights are protected and that you get the best possible outcome.

If you are caught shoplifting, my office can help you fight your charges and get your case dismissed.  I regularly deal with people who are accused of theft crimes in Orange County. You should consult with a criminal defense lawyer when caught shoplifting.  We can get you the police reports on your case and help you avoid the penalties for shoplifting.

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