What Happens When You Get Caught Shoplifting?

Written by belinda tucker
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What Happens When You Get Caught Shoplifting?
Shoplifting inexpensive items is typically charged as a misdemeanour for first offenders. (Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

Shoplifting is a crime in every state, incurring misdemeanour or felony charges, depending on the circumstances. According to a University of Florida study conducted in 2004, slightly more than 8 per cent of the 1,365 shoppers observed stole an item. Considering the high percentage of shoplifters in this study, it is no surprise that small enterprises are often forced out of business resulting from the financial impact of theft.

Merchant's Rights to Detain Suspected Shoplifters

With the enormous financial blow dealt to retail establishments as a result of theft, many retail stores use undercover security personnel or cameras strategically placed throughout the store to watch for shoplifters. Store personnel have the right to detain anyone they suspect of theft. Typically, the store security will take a suspect to a private area out of the main store area to detain a suspected shoplifter while the police are called. In the case of a teenager caught shoplifting, his parents are usually called. When the police arrive, the suspect is read his rights, searched and arrested.

Misdemeanour Shoplifting

The crime of shoplifting can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanour, depending on the value of the item stolen, and the shoplifter's previous history. As of April 2011, if the value of the property is less than £195, the theft is a misdemeanour of the first degree. Some first offenders typically receive a lesser charge like disorderly conduct.

Felony Shoplifting

Shoplifting charges are elevated to the status of felony if the value of the property stolen is £195 or more. If a shoplifter is caught with a previous offence in shoplifting, regardless of the value of the stolen property, they can be charged with a felony.

A felony of the fourth degree is a theft where the property stolen is between £195 and £3,250. If the value of the stolen property is between £3,250 and £65,000, then that crime is defined as grand theft, which is a felony of the third degree. Aggravated theft is designated as theft of £65,000 or more. Those found guilty of shoplifting can be sentenced to serve time in jail and fined.

Shoplifter's Rights

As is the case with any person charged of a crime in the U.S., the accused person has a right to counsel. The store security personnel do not have the right to search a suspected shoplifter, even though they can detain a suspect with probable cause. A suspect does not have to leave the store with the property to be accused of the crime of shoplifting.

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