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Can You Be Charged with Shoplifting Before You Leave the Store?

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Can You Be Charged with Shoplifting Before You Leave the Store?

Posted on : July 12, 2020
Connecticut Shoplifting Attorney

Most shoplifters are caught after they leave the store, but is it possible to be arrested for larceny (the legal term in Connecticut for theft) before you leave the retail establishment? Yes, but retail establishments will likely wait until the shoplifter leaves to pursue an arrest. Here’s why and what you can do to protect your rights after being charged with larceny, for shoplifting. 

What Constitutes Shoplifting? 

Shoplifting is not defined as removing merchandise from a store without paying for it. Rather, all that is required for a shoplifting charge is for an individual to exercise control over or move merchandise in a way that is unexpected or inconsistent with how shoppers normally handle it. 

For example, taking a small toy and keeping it in your hand while you go to another part of the store to shop isn’t unreasonable behavior, but putting it in your pocket is. 

Why Retail Establishments Wait for Shoplifters to Leave 

Even though a shoplifter can be arrested and charged without leaving the store, many retail establishments will still wait until the person has left the store before stopping them or calling the police. This is because it’s harder to prove that you did not intend to pay for the merchandise if you haven’t left the store yet. You can simply say, “Oh! I forgot I put that there. Here, let me pay for it.” 

Stores will often watch suspicious individuals and apprehend them outside of the store, so it can be easily proven that there was no intent to purchase the goods. 

Shoplifting Defenses 

There are many rebuttals to shoplifting charges. If you are, in fact, stopped before you leave the store, you can defend yourself by saying that you meant to pay but forgot where you put the item. This usually works best in cases where you’ve left the item on the bottom of your cart, versus if the item was found in a purse. 

Depending on the evidence available in your case, you may be able to argue mistaken identity, lack of intent to steal the merchandise or lack of evidence against you. 

When to Contact a Connecticut Criminal Defense Lawyer 

Larceny may seem like a minor charge, but even misdemeanors carry stiff penalties and a permanent criminal record. It’s critical that you reach out to an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible after being arrested. Contact Llinas Law today for a consultation to discuss your case at 860-530-1781.

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