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What happens if you’re accused of shoplifting?

Do you know which steps to take if someone accuses you of shoplifting? Are you confident that you'll be able to avoid trouble with the law?

Depending on the circumstances surrounding your situation, an accusation of shoplifting can range from a minor nuisance to something much more serious (in the event of a conviction).

Here are some of the most important steps to take if you are facing a shoplifting allegation by a security guard or store employee:

  • Stay calm. Regardless of the circumstances, there is no reason to get angry. Doing so will only make things worse, so remain calm. Even better, you may want to remain quiet for the time being so that you don't say anything that will get you in more trouble.
  • Know your legal rights. For example, store employees and security guards have the legal right to detain you if they have reason to believe you stole something. However, they are not permitted to use deadly force.
  • You don't have to steal something to find yourself in trouble. For example, if you help another person shoplift an item, e.g., by creating a distraction to divert attention from the shoplifting individual, you may also be charged with a crime.
  • Determine if a mistake led to your trouble. It's easy to see how someone could think you're stealing an item, when in all actuality you had every intention of paying for it. For example, it's possible you could wander outside of a store by mistake without paying for an item. In some cases, an explanation and apology is all it takes to clear the air and help you avoid criminal charges.

Shoplifting may not be as serious as many other crimes, but that doesn't mean you can't find yourself in trouble with the law.

If you are charged with shoplifting and don't know what to do next, it's best to learn more about the accusation and implement a defense strategy that can help you avoid the most serious punishments. When you combine this approach with knowledge of your legal rights, you may be able to negotiate for the merchant to drop the charges or be otherwise vindicated.

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Sarasota, FL 34236

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