What to Do if You’re Accused of Shoplifting over the Holidays?

During the busy holiday season, store owners will look out for shoplifting. It’s not beyond possibility that a merchant might confront you, either in the store or in the parking lot, and accuse you of stealing. Here’s how to protect yourself:

Don’t Fight

Even if the store has the wrong person, you’ll only make things worse for yourself if you start physically struggling with store personnel. The last thing you want is for a video to surface on the internet showing you in a wrestling match with a store owner! Instead, take several deep breaths and listen to what the merchant says.

Of course, it’s entirely possible that an angry clerk or store owner will grab your arm. In that situation, remind yourself to remain calm and tell the person, “Please don’t touch me.” If they refuse to let go, tell them again, “Please take your hands off me.” Ask a friend to record the encounter on a smartphone if you think the store owner is physically overreacting.

Wait for the Police

Legally, merchants can temporarily detain you to investigate whether you stole something. It’s called shopkeeper’s privilege, and it allows merchants to detain customers for reasonable amounts of time if they have probable cause for shoplifting. Generally, they can detain you until the police show up.

You might think it’s crazy that a shop owner can detain you—especially if they’re falsely accusing you of stealing. However, look at it this way: It’s better to wait for the police, who can clear up any confusion. A store owner who has truly made a mistake will probably feel embarrassed once the police confirm that you haven’t taken anything.

Admit Nothing

You are never obligated to answer anyone’s questions. You don’t have to talk to the store owner or the police—though if police ask for your name and address, you should provide that information.

But you don’t need to tell either a merchant or the police why you chose to visit the store or what you were doing with an item in your possession. Even if you are guilty of shoplifting, you can choose to remain silent. Tell the police, “I don’t want to answer your questions. I want to talk to a lawyer.”

Write Down Your Memories

Should the police bring charges against you, you’ll need as much evidence as possible for your defense. You are an important witness to the shoplifting incident, so write down everything you remember. If any suspicious people were in the store near you, then write down descriptions of those people. Also note any actions the store owner took that you think went too far, such as using excessive force while detaining you.

Call a St. Petersburg Criminal Defense Attorney Today

Your best bet for fighting a shoplifting charge is to hire a skilled criminal defense attorney who can analyze the prosecutor’s case and find its weaknesses. At Khonsari Law Group, Rohom Khonsari is a former prosecutor committed to providing smart and aggressive criminal defense. Call us today at (727) 269-5300 or fill out our online contact form for a free case evaluation.