can i be arrested for accidentally shoplifting?

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.