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The Dos and Don’ts When Accused of Shoplifting


One of the more embarrassing and terrifying situations we can find ourselves in is a shoplifting accusation. Shoplifting is a very serious offense and has the possibility of ending with you paying thousands of dollars to cover damages, fines, and/or even jail time.

Unfortunately, shoplifting accusations happen far too often. The pressure of being accused of shoplifting can be intense. The embarrassment you feel and the cinematic panic you endure are just the beginning of this stressful situation — but it’s important to know that there is hope for a positive outcome to your case.

Even if such scenarios sound unlikely to you, this article aims to give general advice on what to do and what not to do, which may help keep yourself out of jail should something go wrong during a detainment process, as well as educate those who have never been involved with law enforcement before about exactly where they stand legally following accusations or worse — arrest.

You’ve Been Accused of Shoplifting – The Don’ts

Don’t make a scene.

No matter how angry and upset you are in the moment, stay calm and don’t do anything to make yourself look guilty in front of everyone in the shop. Remember that shop employees work at their job every day and won’t find shoplifting as a dreadful event. Stay calm and don’t admit fault for anything.

Don’t try to argue.

Shop employees generally already think you’re guilty, so arguing your case won’t do you any good. If you’ve been accused of shoplifting, it’s best to just show the store employee your receipt and be on your way. If they’re persistent in keeping you there, don’t resist.

Don’t try to pay your way out.

It may seem like the right thing to do — pay for whatever the shop employee is accusing you of taking. Even if the shoplifting accusation is false, trying to pay your way out is suspicious activity and makes you look guilty. If you have not made it to the register yet and are still shopping, you can ask the employee to hold the item for you at the front until you are finished shopping.

Don’t try to explain.

It may seem like the obvious choice to try to explain your way out of being accused of shoplifting — but it may backfire. Most shop employees are not interested in your story, and you’re under no obligation to try to explain. Doing so could cause more harm than good as you might say something you later regret because you are frustrated and nervous.

Don’t answer questions or give personal information.

Despite what you might believe, you do not have to give store staff your personal information — name, address, phone number, or email address. Wait for the police to arrive before and don’t answer any questions in the meantime. Remember, you are entitled to a lawyer, and not required to give testimony without your attorney present.

You’ve Been Accused of Shoplifting: The Do’s

Do remain calm.

It’s understandable to want to lash out after being accused of shoplifting. You might be embarrassed, and you’re likely confused. It’s in everyone’s best interest if you just take a deep breath and try to remain as calm as possible.

Do cooperate.

Cooperate with shop employees, security guards, and the police. Cooperation is important because it shows shop assistants that you’re calm and collected enough not to make a scene in public — which is the complete opposite of what shoplifters usually do.

Do familiarize yourself with “Shopkeepers Privilege.”

In Georgia, Shopkeepers Privilege (O.C.G.A. 51-7-60 (2010)) was created to allow business owners and their employees to detain accused shoplifters when an employee has probable cause to believe the accused has committed the crime of shoplifting. This means that the business owner and its employees have the right to detain you until police arrive if they have reason to believe you’ve shoplifted. By this privilege, they’re only allowed to keep you for a reasonable period of time.

Do Call an Attorney Immediately

If you’ve been accused of shoplifting, demand a lawyer if you are questioned. You are not required to give a statement without legal counsel. A police officer or store employee might ask why you need a lawyer if you didn’t do anything wrong. They often do this scare tactic to trick you with the hopes you’ll incriminate yourself. Don’t answer the question — just repeat what you said. You have no obligation to tell them why.

If they refuse, demand they let you go immediately. If they continue to detain you, repeat your demand for a lawyer and call the offices of Schwartz Law. We have years of experience in criminal law defense. Our legal experts are committed to securing the best possible outcomes for our clients.

Andrew Schwartz has an enviable record of success in challenging criminal defense cases. He will work to develop a strong and effective defense of your rights and freedom. Mr. Schwartz devotes his entire practice to criminal defense, including:

  • DUI-Both Driving under the Influence of Alcohol and/or Drugs
  • Drug Charges, including Possession, Possession with Intent, Trafficking
  • Theft, burglary and shoplifting
  • White Collar and Internet Crimes
  • Probation Violations
  • Traffic Offenses
  • Felony and Misdemeanor Charges

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