Can I get in trouble for falsely being accused of shoplifting? 42 Answers as of July 11, 2013

I was recently in Walmart with my daughters. My husband is deployed and we were looking for items for a trip we are taking. I had two things in my hand debating on whether or not to purchase them. Between getting texts and phone calls as a distraction, I set the items in the front of buggy. when things were getting placed there, I moved things to the main part of buggy and moved purses around. They said that I set the purse purposely on top of items, which I did not. I was not arrested, not given a fine, not banned and have no priors. What am I facing for first offense?

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Edward  D. Dowling IV Attorney at Law
Edward D. Dowling IV Attorney at Law | Edward D. Dowling IV
If you are charged with a crime you should hire an attorney to negotiate a plea bargain or go to trial if you have a defense- you may have a defensed of that you did not have intent to steal.
Answer Applies to: New York
Replied: 6/16/2011
Lacy Fields, Attorney at Law, LLC
Lacy Fields, Attorney at Law, LLC | Lacy Fields
See my other posts. You should hire an attorney, which will likely result in a reduction of the charges against you to something less serious. Also, you are probably a good candidate for SIS probation, which does not count as a "conviction" in Missouri.
Answer Applies to: Missouri
Replied: 6/15/2011
Law Office of Eric Sterkenburg
Law Office of Eric Sterkenburg | Eric Sterkenburg
If you did not leave the store without paying you will not be charged.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 6/13/2011
LynchLaw
LynchLaw | Michael Thomas Lynch
Trouble, yes. It is possible the store will send a report to the DA's office where it might be determined you need to face charges. Having said that, it sounds like a very difficult case for the DA to prove. When you say buggy I think of the shopping cart. Did you take the buggy outside? Where were you confronted? Should you actually be convicted of petty theft without a prior, it carries a maximum sentence of 6 months jail time.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 6/13/2011
Law Office of Peter F. Goldscheider
Law Office of Peter F. Goldscheider | Peter Goldscheider
If you have a court date you will be charged. You need to hire a good criminal law specialist if you expect to fight this case successfully. The actual penalty would not likely involve jail but a theft conviction on your record is a serious matter for later job or other opportunities.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 6/13/2011
    Law Office of Tracey S. Sang
    Law Office of Tracey S. Sang | Tracey Sang
    It doesn't sound like you're facing anything if you weren't arrested.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Law Office of James A Schoenberger
    Law Office of James A Schoenberger | James A Schoenberger
    It seems your event is over without any serious consequences to you. No further trouble should come of this.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Timothy J. Thill P.C.
    Timothy J. Thill P.C. | Timothy J. Thill
    It sounds like you did not have the intent to steal items from Walmart. Get an attorney to represent you, you probably can beat the case outright. However, be assured you will not go to jail, if found guilty, but will get some form of a probationary sentence. in a "worse-case" scenario.
    Answer Applies to: Illinois
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Law Office of Andrew Subin
    Law Office of Andrew Subin | Andrew Subin
    If you did not intend to take anything without paying for it, you are not guilty of shoplifting or theft. If you are innocent, you should not plead guilty. You need to hire a lawyer.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Beaulier Law Office
    Beaulier Law Office | Maury Beaulier
    Based on the facts related, it would seem that you have some very strong defenses to the charge. Do not take this offense lightly. Even a misdemeanor theft offense can be very serious. Such an offense is still punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $1000 fine. The collateral consequences of a conviction can also be extremely significant and preclude a person from finding employment where background checks are performed. Often, if you have no prior offenses, a conviction can be avoided with a Stay of Prosecution. A Stay of Prosecution means that the offense is never recorded on your record and stayed for a certain period of time to ensure that you do not have another offense. We can assist you in making sure that your record is not affected.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Nelson & Lawless
    Nelson & Lawless | Terry Nelson
    If you arent arrested, you arent facing anything. If arrested, then you face a misdemeanor criminal charge. If you receive a letter or other contact from the store or its agents demanding payment, or if you do get arrested, exercise the 5th Amendment right to SHUT UP and do NOT talk to anyone except an attorney about the case. Most police and prosecutors will happily tell you that 95% of people convict themselves by trying to be 'helpful and cooperative', either during initial contact, questioning, interview or interrogation. If either happens, then feel free to contact me for the legal help youll need. If you get such letter, or if you think you are going to be arrested, then your attorney may be able to negotiate a civil compromise agreement with the store that will avoid you being arrested.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Craig W. Elhart, P.C.
    Craig W. Elhart, P.C. | Craig Elhart
    In order to be convicted of retail fraud 3rd (shoplifting) the prosecutor would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you in fact shoplifted. If you took nothing from the store, and paid for all items removed from the store, there is no crime. Since you have not been charged, there is no criminal case against you. If the prosecutor decides to file a criminal complaint against you, it seems like you have a good defense and should vigorously defend the charge. Retail fraud 3rd is a 93 days misdemeanor.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Palumbo and Kosofsky
    Palumbo and Kosofsky | Michael Palumbo
    I do not understand the question. If you were not arrested nothing happened. However, if the police were called and you were given a ticket with a court date then you WERE arrested even though you were not taken into custody at that time. If you are tried and convicted whether you are "innocent" or not once you are found guilty then you are a convict. You need to retain a law firm of our caliber to represent you in defense of the charges.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Law Offices of John Carney
    Law Offices of John Carney | John Carney
    You stated that you were not arrested, not fined, and not banned from the store. You placed your purse on the items by mistake and the store assumed you were trying to steal them. I assume you were given a Desk Appearance Ticket to appear in court and not formally arrested, handcuffed, and taken to jail. That means you were charged with Petit Larceny and the case will be dismissed with an ACD if it is your first offense. You should retain an experienced criminal attorney to convince the DA that you are innocent. The DA may just dismiss the charges if he believes your version of the events. An ACD will tell the police, DA, and others in the future who look at the NYSID computer that you were probably guilty but the judge gave you a break because it was your first offense. You will not be able to sue the store or recover your legal fees. You will not face a fine, jail, or even have a conviction. I can probably have the case totally dismissed without having to take an ACD for around $500 since it was an innocent mistake and they cannot prove you intended to steal the items, feel free to call for a consultation.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Law Office of Phillip Weiser
    Law Office of Phillip Weiser | Phillip L. Weiser
    If the store did not file charges against you, then you will not face any penalty. They can ban you from the store for any reason. The store can file the case and let the prosecutor decide whether to file charges any time within the statute of limitations. The prosecutor may choose not to file charges if the evidence is weak.
    Answer Applies to: Kansas
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Law Office of Richard Williams
    Law Office of Richard Williams | Richard Williams
    If you were not arrested there is no case against you.If you were charged with shoplifting (Theft of Property Third - depending on the amount of the merchandise) you could be facing, in municipal court, a fine not to exceed $1,000, (in Mobile) or $500.00 in most other jurisdictions and a jail sentence of not more than 6 months, which can be suspended. Normally, you would be banned from entering into any Wal-Mart store.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Thomas J. Tomko Attorney At law
    Thomas J. Tomko Attorney At law | Thomas J. Tomko
    The offense you describe is a Retail Fraud offense. The elements of retail fraud include taking merchandise offered for sale to the public and intending to keep it without paying for it. (The trespassary taking and carrying away of the property of another with the intent to permanently deprive) . . . So in essence, the defense is lack of intent. many times there is a video of the incident. This should be immediately requested by your attorney so that this evidence is not lost. It may be a great piece of evidence for your defense. If it supports the accidental placement in a strong way, perhaps the case could be dismissed if your attorney and the prosecutor review the tape and agree. The short answer to your situation is to hire an attorney to review this case. I hope that this was helpful.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Ferguson & Ferguson
    Ferguson & Ferguson | Randy W. Ferguson
    I would not plead guilty without an attorney. Usually fines and costs only. May get 12-24 months probation. Talk to attorney. The response given is not intended to create, nor does it create an ongoing duty to respond to questions. The response does not form an attorney-client relationship, nor is it intended to be anything other than the educated opinion of the author. It should not be relied upon as legal advice. The response given is based upon the limited facts provided by the person asking the question. To the extent additional or different facts exist, the response might possibly change.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Austin Legal Services, PLC
    Austin Legal Services, PLC | Jared Austin
    It sounds like they decided not to press charges and just let you go with a stern warning. Had you been charged, the police would have been called and you would have found out about it by now.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Law Office of Brendan M. Kelly
    Law Office of Brendan M. Kelly | Brendan M. Kelly
    If you left the store or moved past the cashier it is theft. Most of the time I can get the matter sent to diversion. Call and we can discuss it.
    Answer Applies to: Nebraska
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Goolsby Law Office
    Goolsby Law Office | Richard Goolsby
    If you have not been charged, and, hopefully, if you are not charged, then I don't see how you face anything. However, I would recommend you consult with a criminal lawyer in your community about all your rights and options. As to shoplifting, it would depend on whether it is a felony or misdemeanor as to the potential sanctions. Good luck!
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 6/10/2011
    Michael Anthony Wing, P.C.
    Michael Anthony Wing, P.C. | Michael Anthony Wing
    Theft involves the element of intent. If you are believed that you did not intend to deprive the owner of its property intentionally, then you are not guilty. Don't cave in, if what you are saying is the truth. Make them try the case and prove all of the elements. Stay well.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 6/9/2011
    Law Office of Rankin Johnson IV, LLC
    Law Office of Rankin Johnson IV, LLC | Rankin Johnson IV
    Nothing, if you aren't charged. If you are charged with an offense, it's a petty offense and you're facing probation, community service, or a possible dismissal. And, on those facts, you might be able to win at trial.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 6/9/2011
    Theodore W. Robinson, P.C.
    Theodore W. Robinson, P.C. | Theodore W. Robinson
    It doesn't sound like you're "facing" anything. They fined you in the store from what it appears and that's the end of it hopefully. If you receive notice to appear in court, then speak to a local attorney about the matter. Good luck.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 6/9/2011
    Frances R. Johnson
    Frances R. Johnson | Frances R. Johnson
    It depends upon the value of the items. In Colorado, theft of an amount less than $500 is punishable (in county court) as a class 2 misdemeanor by probation, from 6 to 18 months in jail, and a fine. This can vary depending upon whether it's the only instance within a certain period of time, or if the value was a smaller amount charged in municipal court. If you call an attorney and give your specific facts, you can get a response tailored to your situation.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 6/9/2011
    Lisa Mulligan Law Offices, LLC
    Lisa Mulligan Law Offices, LLC | Lisa Mulligan
    I'd need more information before I could tell you what is likely to happen - was a police officer called or did store personnel say they were going to make a police report? If so, the police will probably write a report and forward it to the prosecutor. At that point, it would be up to the prosecutor to decide whether or not to file charges. You should talk to a lawyer about your options - give me a call if you have any questions!
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 6/9/2011
    Michael Breczinski
    Michael Breczinski | Michael Breczinski
    Yes you can be charged but you have to intend to steal the items that is "permanantly deprive the owner of the goods. Get a lawyer it is important.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 6/9/2011
    Cynthia Henley, Lawyer
    Cynthia Henley, Lawyer | Cynthia Henley
    It depends on what state you are in as to what the potential punishment is. It sounds as if you are really not guilty, though. If you are contacted about a charge then I strongly urge you to hire a lawyer who can get the video of the purported offense and review it with you so you can both make a sound decision on whether to fight the case. Accidentally walking out with something is completely different than purposely taking it without paying for it. Also, it is a crime of moral turpitude so you really want to try to avoid a conviction for the offense which could affect you for the remainder of your life. However, you may not receive any criminal charge on the case because they may feel that your explanation was reasonable and fit with what was observed.
    Answer Applies to: Texas
    Replied: 6/9/2011
    The Law Office of Harry E. Hudson, Jr.
    The Law Office of Harry E. Hudson, Jr. | Harry E. Hudson, Jr.
    You should talk to an attorney in person about this. Too many ifs for this type of general advice.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 7/11/2013
    The Olsinski Law Firm, PLLC
    The Olsinski Law Firm, PLLC | Justin C. Olsinski
    Depending on the county you may be able to get the charges dismissed. Wal-Mart will usually ban you from their stores as well as make you pay $150, you may get that information in the mail.
    Answer Applies to: North Carolina
    Replied: 6/9/2011
    Klisz Law Office, PLLC
    Klisz Law Office, PLLC | Timothy J. Klisz
    You are facing a 93 day in jail misdemeanor crime. With the correct lawyer, it is possible to avoid jail and a criminal record. I handle dozens of these each year.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 6/9/2011
    Law Office of Bryan Stephenson
    Law Office of Bryan Stephenson | Bryan Stephenson
    In Tennessee, you would be facing Theft of Property under $500, which is a class-A misdemeanor. The maximum penalty is 11 months 29 days in jail and a $2500 fine. If you had no intent to deprive the store of the items without paying for them, then you may have a valid defense. Unfortunately, innocent people do get charged with crimes, and need to mount a vigorous defense just as guilty people need to do. You should consult with an attorney who can present your defense against the government.
    Answer Applies to: Tennessee
    Replied: 6/9/2011
    Lawrence Lewis
    Lawrence Lewis | Lawrence Lewis, PC
    What does falsely accused mean? The Walmart folks think that you shoplifted? Were you ever arrested? If you were not arrested then there will be no court date and you will not be facing any charges. If you were arrested, what were you arrested for? Shoplifting? If it was shoplifting then you forgot some part of the story where you exited the store. In regards to the possible plea offer, see my website under FAQ.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 6/9/2011
    Law Office of Jeff Yeh
    Law Office of Jeff Yeh | Jeff Yeh
    First of all, whether you are falsely accused or not has nothing to do with whether charges will be filed or whether the charges will stick. If the evidence is there, you may be charged. What you can do now is not make it worse by incriminating yourself by talking or signing any documents.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/9/2011
    The Law Firm of Richard Bloch, P.C.
    The Law Firm of Richard Bloch, P.C. | Richard Bloch
    Where did this happen. Did you get a ticket. This will be a fine only but you should not plead guilty to something you did not do.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 6/9/2011
    Fitzpatrick, Mariano, & Santos, PC
    Fitzpatrick, Mariano, & Santos, PC | Raymond J. Savoy
    If the store did not file a complaint you will not be arrested. the court decides on the punishment and depends on several factors, including your prior record and seriousness of the crime.
    Answer Applies to: Connecticut
    Replied: 6/9/2011
    Law Office of William S. Smith
    Law Office of William S. Smith | William S. Smith
    You should remain silent about the matter and retain a criminal defense attorney if charged. On those facts, the most one could be found guilty of is attempt to shoplift or attempted larceny. However the state would have to prove that you actually had the intent to steal the items. A lawyer will know what motions to file to obtain a copy of any store surveillance video that may exist which shows what you were doing.
    Answer Applies to: Massachusetts
    Replied: 6/9/2011
    Cornish, Crowley, Rockafellow, & Sartz, PLLC
    Cornish, Crowley, Rockafellow, & Sartz, PLLC | Jacob Peter Sartz IV
    I would recommend retaining an attorney for this matter. This response does not contain specific legal advice. If you need specific legal advice, you should consult with an attorney. Any person who is confronted at a store with allegations that they allegedly stole something at a store should consult with an attorney. In some limited instances, employees or the owner of the business may not wish to get the police involved. However, a majority of commercial retailers, especially large discount retailers (i.e., Target, Sams-Club, etc.), have thorough "loss-recovery" programs and will usually contact the police and file a police report. Anyone allegedly involved should carefully review any paperwork they received prior to being released and contact the court if they not know if they were ultimately charged with anything or what specifically they are being charged with. The applicable charges have a huge impact on the potential long term consequences. In certain situations, police officers may arrive at the location of the store and meet with the person allegedly involved. If the person is potentially being charged with a more serious offense, they are usually taken into custody and arraigned. If the charges appear to be less severe, police officers may also issue a ticket and release the person from the location of the store. This ticket would list what the person is being charged with. If the person was charged with a misdemeanor, they would need to turn themselves in at the court noted on the ticket to be arraigned. If the person is being charged with a civil infraction, they only have a short period of time to request a hearing; otherwise the court will issue a money judgment against the charged individual for the amount requested. In some instances, an investigating police officer will not issue anything nor take anyone into custody at that time; instead, they will go back and perform more investigative work prior to requesting any charges. Occasionally, after an investigation, the police and local prosecutor will elect not to pursue charges. However, even if a person is immediately released from the store after the initial investigation, they may ultimately be charged with something. It all depends on their particular, unique circumstances. If a person allegedly stole something from a store, they may be charged with anything from a misdemeanor or civil infraction to felonies counts, depending on the factors and depending on what the prosecutor could potentially prove. A person's prior criminal history, especially if they have prior theft convictions, may result in enhanced charges. In some limited instances, the store-owners or employees may not bother to get the police involved; however, a majority of large discount retailers (i.e., Sams-Club, Target, Costco, etc.) usually request police involvement with every allegation of theft. Given the possible consequences for a conviction and given the wide range of potential charges, it is especially important to obtain the guidance of an experienced defense attorney for these types of charges. Most attorneys provide free initial consultations. It is worth a few phone calls. You are presumed innocent until proven guilty. I would recommend retaining an experienced criminal defense attorney.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 6/9/2011
    Rothstein Law PLLC
    Rothstein Law PLLC | Eric Rothstein
    If you were not arrested you don't face any criminal exposure.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 6/9/2011
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