Hypothetically, you enter a store, steal a few items, and you exit the store without being caught. Can you still be arrested for shoplifting afterward? The quick answer is, yes!
In many cases, a place of business will wait until the shoplifter has left the front door(s) before approaching them. This proves to employees that the shoplifter had the intent to steal and went through with the action of stealing. If someone were to pick up an item and conceal it, but then pay for it prior to exiting the store, this would not be stealing. Instead, this would be a questionable shopping practice that is frowned upon by business owners.
Another situation would be when someone conceals a product with the intent to steal, but loses confidence, and puts the item back before exiting the store. Although they may have had intent to steal, the act of stealing did not occur. Employees have to be very careful when approaching a suspected shoplifter because wrongfully accusing someone of a crime can be an awkward encounter for the employee and the individual.
When you are checking out of a store be sure to check the cart both in and under to make sure all items have been put on the counter for purchase. It is an honest mistake to forget an item on the bottom of the cart, however, many businesses will still prosecute you for shoplifting even if it’s an honest mistake and you offer to pay for the item.
Even if you successfully shoplift and exit the store without being caught, you can still be arrested. When there is missing inventory or if something distinctive is gone from the shelves, businesses may review security footage. When they find the clip of footage showing when the theft took place they will call it into the authorities. Then, the police may develop still images from the video and send out a mass announcement asking for help and “do you recognize this person?” Once sufficient evidence has been collected, police can take action.
More often businesses are leveraging the power of social media to nab shoplifters. Posting the video or image of a shoplifter to social media accounts has lead to a number of convictions. You would be surprised at who sometimes drops a dime on their ex-spouse, err, on the thief.
If a store feels like they see someone suspicious or they recognize the person from previous situations where there was trouble, they may take the time to look at their security footage. If they find there was theft, they could use facial recognition software to identify the person in the video. It is also common for stores to share information about shoplifters by sharing pictures and identities of known thieves.
A petty theft misdemeanor, the lowest level of theft in Minnesota, occurs when the value of the property taken is less than $500. This is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and up to 90 days in jail.
Property valued from $500 to $1,000, could face a fine up to $3,000 and one year in jail. Property valued from $1,000 to $5,000, could face a fine up to $10,000 and five years in jail. Property valued more than $5,000, could face a fine up to $20,000 and ten years in jail. Property valued more than $35,000, you could face a fine up to $100,000 and up to 20 years in jail.
The statute of limitations for a misdemeanor in Minnesota is three years. If a store has recorded proof of someone taking an item, has identified them on surveillance video, and has their name, they bring charges weeks, months, and up to three years later for a crime that was previously committed.
If you feel that you may be or are being charged with a theft crime, call a criminal defense lawyer immediately. An experienced attorney has handled hundreds of shoplifting cases and is able to strategically negotiate to get the charges reduced or dismissed. Schedule a free consultation today to discuss your case.