We all know that
shoplifting is illegal. But what happens if you take merchandise from a store by accident?
While many shoplifters may claim that “it was a mistake” or
“it was an accident” and offer to pay for the stolen items
after being caught to avoid consequences, can shoplifting really be committed
by accident? The answer is
yes. It all has to do with whether or not you intended to take the items.
What Is Accidental Shoplifting?
Simply put, accidental shoplifting is when a person takes or conceals retail
goods without the intent to steal or otherwise deprive the owner of their
merchandise. This can happen in a wide variety of ways, such as misplacing
the goods, forgetting about them, or concealing the merchandise by accident.
Acts like these are truly mistakes and are not committed with any sort
of intent to lie or defraud the retailer.
The following examples would all qualify as accidental shoplifting:
- You have several items in your shopping basket and head to the checkout.
As you are walking, one of the smaller items falls and becomes concealed
inside a larger item unnoticed. The cashier does not notice this, and
you only discover the concealed item when you are unpacking your bags at home.
- You are carrying an item you intend to pay for but absent-mindedly walk
outside the store to take an unexpected phone call. A Loss Prevention
officer sees you and accuses you of shoplifting. As long as there is no
further evidence or witness testimonies saying you were concealing items
in your clothing or another shopping bag, it is likely that you will have
a reasonable defense against your criminal shoplifting charge.
While accidental shoplifting is a very real possibility, unfortunately,
it is an excuse store owners, Loss Prevention officers, and prosecutors
hear all the time and usually is not a sufficient defense unless the purported
mistake can be proven by the totality of evidence. While only the alleged
offender will know their intent, prosecutors and Loss Prevention officers
will be more concerned with examining their behavior while they were in
the store, such as evidence of them altering price tags or concealing
items on their person. As such, it is imperative for defendants to retain
the services of a knowledgeable attorney to maximize their chances of
securing a favorable outcome for their case.
Charged with Shoplifting? Call (757) 785-0201
If you have been arrested and charged with shoplifting, our Virginia Beach
criminal defense lawyers can provide the powerful representation you need
to minimize the consequences you face. Backed by countless case victories
and more than three decades of legal experience, our top-rated team has
what it takes to ensure your rights are guarded during this time.
Contact our office online today to discuss your defense options in full detail.