Retailers face a serious problem when it comes to shoplifting. The costs run into the billions of dollars per year. In order to get this lost money back, many companies have opted for aggressive legal tactics that leverage existing state laws. These efforts utilize questionable tactics to obtain restitution, and even pursue individuals who were never convicted of the shoplifting allegation.
One of these companies is Walmart, the world-renowned retail giant. According to a New York Times article, Walmart has been demanding payments from individuals who have never been convicted of wrongdoing.
Real life case of legal bullying
Crystal Thompson, 43, was home watching the annual Rose Bowl parade when her world suddenly turned upside down. The county sheriff arrived at her door to arrest her for the crime of shoplifting at a local Walmart. Given that Ms. Thompson is an agoraphobic, and had not been to a Walmart in more than a year, she was rightfully confused (“baffled and scared,” per the Times) by the visit.
The sheriff transported her to a mobile jail where she was searched and detained in a small room. She was also required to take out her false teeth, an embarrassing demand.
Letters from Walmart’s attorney began to arrive several days after she returned home. Per the Times, “Four days after she returned home, the letters from Walmart’s lawyer started to arrive. The lawyer demanded that Ms. Thompson pay the company $200 or face a possible lawsuit. She received three letters over two months in early 2016.”
At her hearing, no representative from Walmart appeared, and therefore her case was dismissed.
One of the major problems with the above scenario involves the retailer demanding payment up front before the criminal case is even resolved. Laws have made it easy for retailers to pursue alleged shoplifters in this manner. However in the process, a great injustice is being done.
Fighting against false shoplifting charges
In 2016, Maryland began to address these issues with revisions to its shoplifting statutes. The state now requires retailers to report the number of collection letters they send out to alleged shoplifters. (Whether retailers are complying with the new requirements, however, is uncertain.)
Being the subject of a false criminal allegation such as shoplifting can be unnerving and confusing. You may simply not know how to fight back against the accusations of security personnel or store manager when you are innocent.
An experienced criminal defense attorney can mount a strong defense on your behalf against shoplifting charges in a variety of ways. One aspect of the defense may revolve around whether you had requisite intent to shoplift. For instance, if you simply placed an item in your purse accidentally as you were taking care of your child or answering a phone call, your attorney may effectively assert that you had no intention of taking the item out of the store without paying. The same could be true if your child slipped something into your bag without you knowing, or if a self-scanner fails to work and you don’t notice.
Other circumstances or conditions, such as age, illness, medications, or illness may cause you to forget about an item in your cart, basket, etc. Proving one of these factors can improve your case against your shoplifting charge.
Under certain circumstances, if you have been wrongly accused of shoplifting you may exercise the option to file a civil lawsuit for malicious prosecution. In order to achieve success pursuing compensation with your lawsuit, you must:
- Plead not guilty
- Be wrongfully accused of the crime
- Have the charges against you dismissed or be acquitted of the offense in court
Shoplifting convictions come with various types of criminal penalties. An experienced Bowie criminal defense lawyer can review the evidence in your case and do everything possible to eliminate or minimize a negative outcome on your behalf.
If you are facing a shoplifting charge, we are here to defend your rights and seek the best result possible on your behalf. To arrange a free consultation at one of our offices in Bowie or Crofton to discuss your situation, call Carey Law Office today at 301.464.2500 or complete our contact form.