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What to do about an accusation of shoplifting

There are more serious crimes than shoplifting, but that doesn't mean you should take an accusation lightly. Depending on what you're accused of stealing, a conviction could result in a variety of hefty consequences, some of which could alter your life forever.

It's important to act in the appropriate manner when confronted about shoplifting, as this can impact your case in the future. Here are a few things you need to do:

  • Stay calm and don't say too much: There will be a lot going through your mind, but it's typically better to keep your thoughts to yourself. You don't want to let something slip that will cause more harm than good. Just the same, remain calm and avoid physical confrontation.
  • Protect yourself: Security officers and store owners have the legal right to detain you if there is reason to believe you were shoplifting. That said, they must have probable cause. Just the same, they are not permitted to use deadly force or force that can cause injury.
  • You can be charged even if you didn't steal something: For example, a shoplifting charge could come about if you were helping another person steal an item. Even if you didn't know about the person's scheme, you could still face charges.
  • Remember that mistakes happen: While not always the case, you may be able to explain why it looks like you were shoplifting. For example, maybe you lost track of where you were in the store, thus wandering close to the door with an unpaid item. Explaining this to the store employee may go a long way in clearing the air and allowing you to move on without additional trouble.

Since an accusation of shoplifting is serious business, you need to take all the right steps at the right time. If you don't, it increases the likelihood of a serious punishment, such as a fine, community service or even jail time.

Knowing your rights as a shopper can help prevent an accusation of shoplifting. Even so, if you or a loved one, such as a child, are facing charges, don't hesitate to take immediate action in regard to protecting your legal rights.

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Andrew M. Coffey has been recognized as a Board Certified Civil Trial lawyer by the Florida Bar. Certification is the highest level of recognition by The Florida Bar of the competency and experience of attorneys in the areas of law approved for certification by the Supreme Court of Florida.

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