Frequently Asked Questions About Shoplifting

Being charged with shoplifting in Georgia can be classified as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the value of the goods that were stolen. From the moment that security detains you, there are many questions that are probably racing through your head about how to handle the situation.

Shoplifting involves two sets of questions: where do your rights end and how far can the store go to prevent theft? Balancing these two questions means that the legal system is trying to find who overstepped their boundaries. Was the store allowed to confront and detain you? Did they have probable cause? Were you caught on video tampering or concealing items?

These are the types of questions that an attorney will ask the prosecution, seeking to have your charges dropped. In the meantime though, you probably have some serious questions about how shoplifting might affect you.

A merchant claims that I changed the price tag of an item that I bought. They detained me and now I’m being charged with theft by shoplifting. How could this happen?

In the State of Georgia, shoplifting can be more than just stealing. The official law states that putting items in incorrect containers or switching price tags are all considered forms of shoplifting. In this case, even though you bought the item, the store essentially sees this as theft because you reduced the earnings that they should have received. Yes, this can result in a shoplifting charge, but unless there is irrefutable proof that you switched the labels, then this is not an error or on your part.

Even though I didn’t take anything, I was with another person that was shoplifting. Can I also face charges for shoplifting?

When a group of people is caught shoplifting, the store cannot be sure if the defendant was acting alone or if the accomplices were part of scoping out security, selecting items, etc. As a result, the store does have a right to detain any and all members of the group, and law enforcement can press charges on everyone. If a criminal defense attorney can prove that the shoplifting act was committed without your knowing, then you could find these charges dropped.

I accidentally walked out of the store without paying for an item. Now I’m facing criminal charges for shoplifting even though it was an honest mistake. Can these charges be dropped?

Shoplifting requires some level of intent. Accidental shoplifting will still require you to reimburse the store for lost earnings, but you shouldn’t be charged with a misdemeanor. In fact, accidental shoplifting is quite common among elderly shoppers – they don’t face criminal charges, they are simply ordered to return the item or make payment. A criminal defense lawyer can prove that your shoplifting was unintentional (i.e. you were distracted on the phone, forgot the item was in the cart, or your child was holding it when exiting the store). There are many ways that shoplifting can be proved accidental, in which case the court will likely drop the charges.

A good friend works the cash register at my favorite store. He gave me an employee discount at check-out, but now I’m facing a shoplifting charge. How can this be my fault?

Unfortunately, if an employee gives you an unauthorized discount, then you (the buyer) could face charges for purchasing the discounted item. This practice has been a problem in stores for decades and results in tons of lost profits for merchants, which is precisely why they want to make sure all items are bought at their advertised prices. While this may seem unfair, it is permissible under Georgia law. This kind of shoplifting charge isn’t particularly common, but it is important to know the repercussions: both the employee and buyer can face charges.

I brought an item that I’ve already purchased into a store and the employees believe that I stole it. How can I fight my shoplifting charge?

A sad but all too common scenario is that shoppers may be incorrectly vilified for shoplifting when they bring items from home into a store. Let’s say you bring a pack of unopened batteries into a store, or a hat with the tags still on it, or even an unopened pack of gum – security may believe that you stole the item from their store. Hiring a criminal defense attorney is your best option for uncovering video surveillance that proves you innocent. Other evidence, like receipts from your purchase, could dismiss your charges.