Do you ever feel nervous when you enter a store? Maybe you have felt the presence of a shop worker following you around. Perhaps you have waited nervously when the alarm sounds as you leave the store with the goods you bought. Or, if you have small children, you might routinely check each time you go to supermarket checkout, in case one of them has grabbed a chocolate bar from the shelf and dropped it inside your bag. Many law-abiding citizens have an innate fear that someone will falsely accuse them of stealing from a store.
It may seem an irrational fear. Yet, stores often make false accusations against innocent people. While it should be simple to clear up, these accusations can have serious consequences. If accused of stealing, you could face criminal charges and a civil lawsuit. Shoplifting is a criminal offense for which you could go to prison. Stores are also entitled to file to recover the alleged stolen item’s cost.
However, what some stores such as Walmart have been doing is following both lines of attack. They report people to the police, which leads to innocent people being arrested and spending a night or more in jail. Then they instruct their lawyer to send a letter saying that if the person does not pay up, they will file a civil lawsuit. Many pay up in fear, despite being innocent.
Under US law, you are innocent until proven guilty. Yet, thanks to the policies pursued by these retailers, it may not feel like it. Being accused of shoplifting can be frightening. You may need legal help to understand the best course of action and protect your rights.