Shoplifting: What you need to know

Shoplifting is a major problem for Georgia retailers. According to a 2014 research study by the National Association of Shoplifting Prevention (NASP), one out of 11 people shoplifts merchandise. Many retailers tend to take a hard line with shoplifters as a result.

But overzealous reactions from store owners and managers can lead to innocent people being arrested, charged and prosecuted for shoplifting when what really occurred was a misunderstanding. Read on to learn more about shoplifting allegations.

What is the store's policy?

Today, most retailers have policies and procedures in place to deal with suspected shoplifters. Many stores have "no tolerance" policies and prosecute most, if not all, of those they accuse. But it is also possible that a store will defer prosecution in lieu of a lifetime ban for the individual suspected of shoplifting. Some retailers may elect not to prosecute minors or those 65 and older.

Some stores find it to be more cost-effective to aggressively deter shoplifting by approaching the shopper they suspect may have lifted merchandise and ask if they are ready to be rung up for the item yet. That puts the person on notice that the store personnel are aware they have the item. The person can then either pay for it or surrender it to the clerk or cashier, and say they changed their mind.

You could be profiled

Although research has shown that shoplifting crosses all demographic barriers, some store employees or owners will allow their personal biases to influence their actions. They may profile shoppers according to their race or perceived socioeconomic status, for instance.

Stores are more likely to prosecute when the price tag is higher

Someone who slips a $3 bottle of salad dressing into their purse in the supermarket may be less likely to be prosecuted than someone attempting to walk out with a tray of steaks under their jacket. But that is not always the case, as even some dollar stores prosecute shoplifters.

What is criteria for an arrest?

Different jurisdictions can have varying criteria for arresting a shopper for lifting merchandise. Generally speaking, however, the store personnel must have seen the individual conceal an item and have maintained surveillance on them until they attempted to leave without paying for it. But even in those circumstances, a shopper may have inadvertently knocked some merchandise into an open purse or pocket.

Take the allegation seriously

If you have been accused of shoplifting merchandise from a store, never think that it is not a serious charge. Even a misdemeanor conviction for shoplifting is enough of an onus to render you ineligible for scholarships and other financial aid, jobs, volunteer positions or elected office.

Never admit guilt to a store employee or the police until you have consulted with a Georgia criminal defense attorney who can advise you of your rights.

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