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Steps to Take If You Are Stopped for Shoplifting

by | May 23, 2021 | Firm News

Shoplifting is “stealing goods from a store while pretending to be a customer.” Shoplifting as a crime falls under theft or larceny. The actual charge, however, may be considered a misdemeanor or felony depending on a few factors.

Theft should not be taken lightly. The consequences, even for something you may see as small, can escalate quickly. Should you choose to decide to steal and you are stopped for shoplifting, there are some steps you should take to protect your rights. First, if you have been arrested or charged with shoplifting, call the shoplifting defense attorney, The Law Office of B.D. Williams, Esq, a call today at F:P:Sub:Phone} for help. Time is of the essence.

What Is Shoplifting?

You may be under the impression that shoplifting only includes taking something from a retailer without paying for it. It also includes the following:

  • Tampering with price tags or packaging to pay less than the full price
  • Using fraudulent discounts
  • Using/eating items while shopping and not paying for it
  • Returning merchandise, you didn’t pay for
  • Not paying for all merchandise at a self-checkout by hiding or “forgetting” to scan them
  • Using a device to shield theft detectors

Another common misconception is that you must leave the store before it’s deemed shoplifting. This is false. Many state policies qualify the intent to steal as shoplifting, and concealing an item is enough intent.

What Rights Do Stores Have Over Shoplifters?

Stores in most states are allowed and protected to a certain extent to detain a person if they have probable cause to suspect that they are concealing goods with plans to leave without paying. Probable cause must go beyond suspicion, and the person may only be held for a limited time. There is a sensitive limit to this time and how the supposed shoplifter is approached. All of these factors are taken into consideration on a case-by-case basis.

Can You Get Caught Shoplifting Weeks Later?

What if you aren’t stopped shoplifting? Can you still be charged for stealing if you make it out of the store without being caught? While the chances of being arrested are much lower, you can still be charged with theft if the retailer has proof that you took something without paying. In other words, they have video footage of you shoplifting. This can happen days, weeks, or even months later.

What Can I Do If I’ve Been Stopped For Shoplifting?

If you think you are being followed or if you have been stopped for shoplifting, there are some things you can and should do.

Been Accused For Shoplifting In Indiana?

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If You Were Wrongfully Accused

If you’ve been detained by security or a store employee and you were wrongly accused of shoplifting, try to take note of the following:

  • Who stopped you
  • How you were detained and if you were physically touched in any way
  • How many employees were involved

While you have every right to be upset, it’s best to cooperate and stay calm. You can bring this information to your attorney if you’re interested in pursuing a lawsuit against the store. Most will agree to a settlement outside of court.

If You Are Being Watched Or Are Detained

If you are being watched and have already hidden merchandise with the intent to steal it, stop and get rid of it. Put it back on a shelf, even if it’s in front of others, and leave the store. In most instances, this will be seen as you change your mind and will not be pursued. At that point, if you don’t have any items on you, there is no crime.


If you have been detained, it’s best to cooperate and request legal representation. Do not try to run or explain your way out of the situation. Take note of who approached you and how you were detained. Stores are required to follow particular guidelines for shoplifting. Contact an Indianapolis criminal defense attorney, Law Office of B.D. Williams, Esq, at F:P:Sub:Phone} to help you with your case.