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What if I Shoplift by Mistake?

It was supposed to be a quick trip in and out of the grocery store. You thought you didn’t need a cart until you saw a tempting impulse purchase in Isle 12. Because your hands are already full, you put it in your pocket and proceed to checkout.

The alarms ring as you go through the front door. You freeze as a nearby security guard approaches. You completely forgot about the item in your pocket. After a long talk with the manager, you wonder what happens if you shoplift by mistake.

Establishing Intent

Intent is a crucial part of many criminal proceedings. Even if you did wrong, did you have the intention to steal? This is something that needs to be determined between your attorney and the prosecution by weighing the evidence.

Anyone can say sorry when they’re caught. Thankfully, the accused have a presumption of innocence until they are proven guilty. To this end, many stores now use security cameras to capture suspicious activity.

If an accused shoplifter is witnessed looking over their shoulder or suspiciously concealing merchandise, the store owner has a strong foundation for establishing intent. On the other hand, if you innocently pick up an item, examines the packaging, and put it in your coat pocket, that would seem to suggest a lack of intent.

Potential Consequences

Store managers may pursue charges even when the evidence leans toward a lack of intent. This often means getting the police involved, formal reports, and a citation or even arrest depending on the circumstances.

If you’re accused of shoplifting, try to stay calm. The police officer cannot interpret the law; they can only enforce it. Attempting to argue with a responding officer could hurt a claim of accidental shoplifting as they could later use any plea or argument against you in court.

When faced with any charge, you should exercise your right to remain silent. Do not tell your side of the story until you have legal representation. If a case of accidental shoplifting leads to criminal charges, stay calm, and politely request an attorney.

If you were accused of shoplifting or theft, you might seek legal representation. If you’d like an experienced Knoxville criminal defense attorney from Eldridge and Cravens, PC to evaluate your case, please call (865) 544-2010 or send us an email.