June 19, 2021

anonymous woman choosing outfit in store

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 witht eh police officers, you risk being put intoa scenario where they will ask you to search your car. If this happens then you are put into an akward 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 transporation or car if you thye 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. 

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.