Retail establishments are businesses that receive a lot of foot traffic. Owners generally display items on shelves for sale. This business is also somehow based on trust and confidence in the people who go in and out of their retail establishment. Any person is welcome to come in to browse through their items and buy whatever is available on their shelves and go to the counter to pay for the certain item. It is simple to walk away with any item without paying for it simply because the retail shop owner or his or her staff, most often than not, are usually just by the counter waiting for those who are going to pay for the items they wish to purchase. Such businesses are not free from any theft that might happen. Shoplifting or retail theft is penalized by our statutes.
Shoplifting or retail theft, as defined in Merriam-Webster dictionary, is the act of stealing displayed goods that are for sale in any retail establishment. Today, in the United States, shoplifting or retail theft is one of the ways that, generally, any law-abiding citizen may commit. It may be a violation of a municipal ordinance, or statutes as a misdemeanor or as a felony.
Any law-abiding person may be charged with retail theft. The decline of the economy contributes to the incline of retail theft charges and offenses in the country. Retail theft is an offense that is very complex. It may be committed in a number of ways:
- Walk out of the store with the merchandise without paying for it;
- Alter, transfer or remove the label of the merchandise and purchase the same;
- Transfer the merchandise to any other place in the store; or
- Any other method that the other person will use with intent to deprive the retailer of its full value.
It is hard to determine who are the offenders in this case. Some retail establishments install state of the art technology to apprehend any offenders but some retail establishments are still relying on the old-fashioned way, by confronting the offender. Here are some of the important things one must do when they are caught committing or accused of retail theft:
- Do not try to flee from the retail establishment or from the unarmed private security officers. Most of the time, offenders are confronted by the in-store security before they are turned over to the police or authorities. Fleeing the in-store security is a strong indication of guilt. You will lose the right to challenge the legality of the detention in court.
- When you are turned over to the police, invoke your right to counsel. Any explanation, whether made innocently, may be used against you. When the police asks you to explain what happened, do not be compelled to answer. Simply invoke your right to counsel before admitting or denying anything. You will also have the right to a bail attorney if you do not already have the funds to bail yourself out of jail.
- Hire a criminal defense lawyer. Retail theft may be a serious criminal offense. You must be represented by an experienced lawyer specializing in criminal law practice to ensure that all your rights are protected and all your defenses laid out accordingly.
- When there are any restitutions due, immediately pay it. If the offender was able to flee the store before he was caught by the in-store security committing retail theft, he shall be required to pay the retail establishment restitution. In a number of cases, the retail establishment drops the charges when restitution is paid; however, if you are not guilty of the charge, do not pay such.
- Appear in court. If the charge is criminal in nature, make sure to appear in court because failure to do so, without any justifiable reason, might result in the judge issuing a warrant for your arrest. However, if the charge is a municipal violation, you are not required to appear in court, but failure to do so shall result in the judge finding you guilty by default.