Defending Yourself Against Shoplifting Charges in NYC

Defending Yourself Against Shoplifting Charges in NYC

False accusations of shoplifting aren’t all that uncommon. Many retailers believe that the overzealous pursuit of shoplifters is good normal business, and that people should be willing to endure false accusations if it means more shoplifters get caught. 

Some retailers even pursue monetary damages against shoppers who have not been convicted of any crime.

Sadly, this means you might find yourself in trouble even if you didn’t take anything, or if you took something unintentionally, such as by accidentally leaving an item in the bottom of your cart when you check out.

Often, you may find yourself in an encounter with the police even when store loss prevention personnel can’t find any merchandise on your person and can’t produce any evidence that you’ve taken anything.

So what do you do?

Avoid Incriminating Yourself

You should exercise your right to remain silent even when you’re dealing with in-store officials. Just say, “I will not speak without a lawyer present.”

The loss prevention officials may try to intimidate you into signing documents admitting your guilt, or which ban you from the store. The document may also lock you into paying fees. They might say, “Just sign this and we won’t call the police.”Don’t believe them. Getting you to sign the document is part of their job, and it amounts to a confession. It’s not impossible to discredit such confessions on the stand or to keep them out of evidence, but it will make your defense harder.

You might get arrested, but remember in New York non-violent misdemeanors like shopping are bail-free offenses.  This means you should be released on your own recognizance. The disruption will still make your life difficult, but working with the loss prevention officers won’t really stop it from happening.

In many cases, you’ll be allowed to go home, but will be issued a Desk Appearance Ticket, a document listing the charges and your court date. Do not miss the court date.

From the moment you are stopped or pulled aside, your eye should be on your potential defense.

Gather as much information as you can. 

Do not answer any questions or ask any questions when you are stopped.  However, listen carefully to the conversations between loss prevention employees.  Listen to see if they talk about the specific property allegedly taken, its value, and where it was taken from.  Any information you hear can greatly assist you and your attorney in fighting for you in court.

If you have the alleged item with you then make sure you can tell your defense lawyer why later. Is there a reasonable explanation or evidence to support the explanation?

Remember, theft is not theft unless you intentionally held on to the property with intent to steal it. If the self-checkout failed to scan the barcode or if it was forgotten in your cart, that is not a theft.

Finally, try to get the name of the loss prevention officer as your attorney will need that information later.

Call a lawyer ASAP.

Calling an attorney gives you your best chance of walking out of this accusation with a good outcome. This is true whether you are innocent or guilty of the crime.

Don’t give the prosecutor an edge. Contact the Law Offices of Julie Rendelman for a consultation.

See also:

How to Strengthen Your NYC Criminal Case

What Are the Steps in a Criminal Trial?

Can You Really Get My Criminal Case Dismissed?