What should you do if you are stopped for shoplifting?

On Behalf of | Dec 12, 2022 | Criminal Defense

There is a misperception that shoplifting is a minor crime that will have no impact on your life. But it can cause embarrassment, cost money, restrict your freedom and activities and have other serious consequences.

Being detained

What you do when being caught for retail theft may impact your criminal defense and the problems you may face.

First, do not run because this may cause store security personnel to react. If security is allowed to apprehend you, they may try to grab you and force you back inside the store. They may call the police if you try to run away or act hostile.

Try to stay calm and do not make any sudden movements. Any overacting on your part may cause store security to overact out of self-defense or fear.

Do not try to bargain or make a deal. Retail employees have heard practically every excuse. Often retail security guards are more interested in apprehending a person than just receiving the merchandise back.

Remember that you are being watched. Keep your hands out of your pockets and handbag. Avoid making any sudden movements and keep your voice down.

Abusive and obnoxious behavior can make a bad situation worse and may cause retail employees to call the police.

In the store security office, be sure there is a witness who is the same gender as you. If the store detective is the same gender, the witness may be a person of opposite gender. Usually, the witness will be an available store employee.

Politely refuse to answer questions posed by store detectives. Never lie. Do not surrender any merchandise until the detective asks you for it. The detective may perceive a threat if you put your hands in your pockets without being asked.

The store detective will likely release you if you present identification. Be careful about anything that you sign, however and ask questions. Store security employees may not have sufficient training or knowledge to explain the meaning of any documents, however. If police are called, exercise your right to remain silent but you may present your identification.

Civil recovery

Indiana law allows, in addition to criminal penalties, the recovery of civil damages. There is a presumption that the damages are at least $100 even for less costly merchandise. Stores may seek damages that are three times the cost of the item. Attorney’s fees may be imposed.

Criminal penalties depend on the dollar amount of the merchandise. In some cases, imprisonment may be imposed.

Speak to an attorney after being apprehended and before you sign any document or agree to civil demand payments. Attorneys can help assure that your rights are protected.