What to Do if You’ve Been Stopped for Shoplifting

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Being stopped for shoplifting can be an unsettling experience. Your heart might be pumping, and you might be completely innocent. Your top priority should be to avoid digging a hole for yourself. Follow these tips to protect yourself.

Don’t Flee.

You probably will be stopped by the shopkeeper or store security. You might be tempted to flee, but that will only make you look guilty. Also, you are unlikely to get away, since security can follow you. The store also probably recorded your face with a video camera, so they might be able to track you down later. Instead of fleeing, ask security why they stopped you.

Admit nothing.

You are not obligated to explain yourself, and anything you say can be used against you later in court. You do not have to talk to either store security or to the police should they arrive. Instead, you can say, “I don’t know what you’re talking about” or “I have nothing to say.”

Some people think they can talk their way out of anything, but you don’t actually know why you are being suspected of shoplifting. The less you say the better.

Stay calm.

You might feel agitated that you are being detained. However, South Carolina law gives store owners a privilege to detain you as they investigate and wait for the police to arrive. If you struggle, you might get injured, and you also will harm your case.

Instead, take several deep breaths. If you think security is being rough with you, ask a friend or a bystander to videotape the encounter so that you will have proof. Store security can detain you, but they can’t manhandle you, and you might have important legal rights if store security injured you.

Write down what happened.

As soon as possible, write down what happened while inside the store. For example, was there someone near you in the store who had on similar clothing as you? Did you put something temporarily in your pocket on your way to the cash register? These details matter to your lawyer and will help your lawyer build a defense to you.

For example, South Carolina law states that a merchant can assume that someone is intending to commit shoplifting if they conceal an unpurchased good while inside the store.

Hire an Experienced Columbia, South Carolina Criminal Defense Attorney

Each shoplifting situation is unique, and only a qualified criminal defense attorney can come up with your best defense after carefully reviewing the entire factual record. To build your defense, a lawyer might:

  • Speak to witnesses, such as people with you or store employees.
  • Review store surveillance video.
  • Find and analyze the police report.
  • Look at medical records if you were injured while being detained.

In some situations, a plea bargain might be the best possible resolution, while in other situations you might want to go to trial to fight the charge.

William A. Hodge, Attorney at Law, approaches every case individually. If you have been accused of shoplifting, you need an aggressive advocate in your corner who will hold the state to its burden of proving you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Call 803-457-2216 for a free consultation or fill out our online contact form.

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