What to Avoid If You Have Been Charged with a Shoplifting Offense?

Interviewer: What are the most common mistakes you see people make that make their case worse than it otherwise would have been?

Avoid Providing a Written Statement of Guilt at the Store

Jacqueline: My clients are usually women. They are usually housewives. They are not used to the legal system. They are not used to being caught and charged and it is very traumatic for them. And, of course, the store personnel take them into the security room. They call the police and the people are so frightened that they often will give a written statement that they took the merchandise. This is the most common error and can be the biggest mistake to make.

You Are Not Legally Obligated to Provide a Written Statement to Store Personnel

Instead of not saying anything, especially to the store personnel, they will write out an admission. They are not obligated to write out this statement.

Miranda Rights and Establishing Custody: When Are You Actually in Custody if You Have Been Detained by Personnel in a Store? Do You Have to Give a Statement?

No. You do not have to make statements at all. If it is the police, and the police are doing an investigation, then the Defendant is to be afforded the Miranda Rights if they are in custody. They usually are in custody, because they are taken into the special security office of the store.

If You Cannot Leave on Your Own Volition, Should You Be Offered the Protection of Your Miranda Rights?

An argument can be made that even though the custody may not be in the police headquarters, my client believes that he or she is in custody already and is unable to leave on his own volition.

Many People Mistakenly Believe They Are Compelled to Provide a Written Admission of Guilt, Even Prior to Police Arriving

Too often, even before the police even arrived, they have written out a statement inculpating him or herself, and that’s a big mistake.

They shouldn’t do that, because it just seals their fate, and even though I can argue well that they were under coercion and it is under duress, they were so scared they did not know what to do between the video and the written statement, they have already built a strong case against themselves.

Legally, if Detained for Allegedly Shoplifting, You Are Not Obligated to Provide a Statement either to the Police or to Store Personnel

Interviewer: But just for people to know, they are not obligated to provide a statement to store personnel?

Jacqueline: No, they do not have to provide the store personnel with a statement.

Interviewer: Also, they are not obligated to provide a statement to the police?

If You Are Accused of Shoplifting, Not Providing Statements or Admissions Leaves the Burden of Establishing Proof on the Police or Store Personnel

Jacqueline: That’s right. They are not under any obligation to provide a statement to the police. They should leave the police and store personnel with the burden of establishing proof. Very often, people who are not hardened criminals do not know this.

Fear Often Compels People to Admit Their Guilt When They are Accused of Crimes

It is not only in shoplifting. It is in so many other cases where they will just provide the police with carte blanche statements out of fear, and they do not realize that they have made it very difficult to undo what was said.

Does a Stolen Item Have to Have a Minimum Dollar Value in Order for a Store to Press Shoplifting Charges?

Interviewer: Are there monetary limits in order to press shoplifting charges? In reality, can you be prosecuted for stealing something that costs twenty-five cents?

New Jersey Laws Allow for a “DeMinimus” Provision

Jacqueline: No, because there is a provision for something that is called “de minimus”. If it is a stick of gum, I would move for a dismissal. I would go before the Judge and say, “Look, we are talking about a five cent stick of gum.” The Judges will likely dismiss it.

A Shoplifting Case for An Item That is not worth a Minimum Dollar Value Would Likely Be Dismissed

The amount in that case would be considered de minimus, and there are cases out there that allow for this discretion.

Other Related Shoplifting FAQs: