If you are arrested for shoplifting, it can be a serious crime depending on whether you are being charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. This will, more often then not, depend on the value of the item stolen. For example, petty larceny, which is stealing an item worth less than a certain dollar amount, is a misdemeanor. Over that amount, the offense is grand theft, which is a felony. The dollar amounts that determine petty larceny or grand theft vary from state to state.
Most shoplifting in this state comes from juveniles and the elderly. They are not professional thieves – however, there are a growing number of people who actually make a living committing the crime of shoplifting.
Both misdemeanors and felonies may be punishable by confinement in jail or a fine. While a judge may order probation or another sentence not involving confinement, a person accused of shoplifting should not necessarily expect to avoid criminal prosecution by payment of restitution to the merchant.
A storeowner or someone who works for the owner generally has the right to detain a person they suspect of shoplifting in order to investigate the possible crime.
This can happen inside or immediately outside the store. This investigation must take place in a reasonable amount of time. Generally, the owner or employee can't look inside the person's bag without permission, unless they actually saw the person steal something, or the item is in plain view. If this were not the case, the store would either have to let the person go or call the police to conduct any further investigation.
The owner or employee can't loudly accuse the suspect in front of other customers and must not be rude or offensive during questioning. If the storeowner was mistaken, the owner can be exposed to a civil liability for defamation and emotional distress, so there is a substantial risk in accusing someone of shoplifting publicly.
When the shoplifter is a child, the merchant may seek civil remedies from the parent or guardian of the child in lieu of criminal prosecution.
For more information on shoplifting, theft and larceny visit GotTrouble.com