Getting Caught for Shoplifting


Retail fraud offenses are common, and getting caught for retail fraud occurs more frequently than ever before.  There are several reasons why arrests have increased:

1.  Many stores have policies to prosecute shoplifters when caught.  The rationale is that it acts as a deterrent for thefts occurring in the future.   However, people commit retail fraud for a variety of reasons (the belief they wont get caught, the thrill of stealing, the desire to obtain something not affordable, mental condition such as kleptomania, peer pressure, to support a drug habit or otherwise obtain money, etc., etc.).   Although deterrence is a goal,  retail theft crimes are still widespread.  Once caught, prosecutors and Judges are sometimes less inclined to give a break to someone charged with shoplifting because they want to protect the store, which provides tax revenue to the community.  This is also a symbiotic relationship with the Court, because retail fraud convictions lead to additional revenue to the Court in the form of court costs, fines, and probation supervision fees.

2.  Better store designs help prevent theft.  Store designs that maximize the visibility of the shopper to loss prevention, employees, and other shoppers have lead to more arrests.  Stores try to eliminate areas where hidden or blind spots exists in stores by having wider aisles, better sight lines, location of cash registers near exits, locating high theft items in more visible places, securing high theft items with locks or locked cabinets, and the use of better and the more widespread placement of cameras.

3.  Effective security devices results in the apprehension of people stealing.  Devices such as security sensors and CCTV (Closed Circuit TeleVision used to monitor shoppers) have assisted loss prevention in making more apprehensions than ever before.  Furthermore, since it is relatively inexpensive to store data now, having cameras that record what is happening in stores is more commonplace.  Video evidence makes it easier to prosecute and gain convictions.

4.  Loss prevention’s job is to stop theft.  Loss prevention have more tools at their disposal to assist in their duties of detection such as the aforementioned effective security devices.  Loss prevention officers are often trained to search for individuals that may be more inclined to steal, such as people who are: nervous; people that wander aimlessly; people that hang out in areas with merchandise that are less visible; known shoplifters; people that wear baggy clothes or coats (especially when out of season); people that have items that can be used to conceal merchandise such as bags, baby strollers, umbrellas, coats, etc.  Loss prevention is also trained to watch employees that assist customers in order to detect if the employee is acting in concert with an individual stealing items, or purchasing them at unauthorized reduced prices.  Loss prevention often develop working relationships with local police officers in order to work hand in hand together and with the prosecution when a suspected theft occurs.

5.  Employee training and screening are a keep part of loss prevention.  The sometimes annoying, persistent customer service is part of the training.  The employees are often trained to work with loss prevention to help survey persons and merchandise, and relay that information when necessary.  Employees are often trained to inspect the merchandise and price tag to see that it corresponds to what is being purchased.  When an employee encounters a suspicious situation, they are trained to contact loss prevention immediately.  Employers attempt to screen their employees better by doing background checks to not hire persons with theft convictions, drug convictions, or a poor or unstable work history.

6.  Hiring more persons – there is strength in numbers.  This provides more eyes to watch for theft, and to guard against situations where shoplifters work in concert with one another to distract salespeople, to overwhelm the salesperson’s ability to watch everyone, and/or commit organized retail fraud.  Having employees placed at the door can act as a deterrent to retail fraud crimes, and help apprehend persons trying to push out large or expensive items into an awaiting automobile.

7.  Providing better working environment reduces environment for theft.  Stores that provide better work environments have employees that care about theft and the bottom line of the store.  Employees that care are usually more vigilant, and less likely to watch with a blind eye.

Stores are interested in having better loss prevention practices for a variety of reasons: reduce store losses; reduce instances of false arrest; reduce risk to employees and customers from theft and other criminal offenses caused by others; reduce company insurance rates.  Loss prevention is always attempting to develop new and more effective ways to prevent shoplifting.  When new technologies and new loss prevention strategies develop, stores implement them to protect their bottom line.

When an individual is arrested for shoplifting or retail fraud, it is important to have a criminal defense lawyer experienced with these types of cases:

1.  A lawyer experienced in these types of cases is more likely able to build a stronger defense.  By understanding loss prevention, employee practices, and store policies, the experienced criminal defense lawyer can construct a defense that will more effectively counteract these issues;

2.  A lawyer experienced in these types of cases is more likely to have a greater ability to negotiate a better result with the prosecution and/or court because each will more likely respect the experienced lawyer’s ability to defend these types of cases;

3.  A lawyer experienced in these types of cases will reduce the anxiety level and fear of the person accused, because the client will feel that the case is being handled in the right manner;

4.  A lawyer experienced in these types of cases may be able to help the client avoid having a theft conviction on their record.  A theft conviction can affect an individual from obtaining a good job, a great career, or education.

There are many lawyers who claim to do more than what they are able – just as there are many surgeons in the world that are no better than butchers. Do not settle for a legal hack job. Practicing law is a skill that develops over time with experience, commitment, dedication, and God given talent. There are no amateur attorneys at Hilf & Hilf, PLC – only professionals that are guided by the humanity in the individuals we serve, and the drive not to settle for what is easy over what is right.

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