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Theft of merchandise from a store or business establishment.

Although the crime of shoplifting may be prosecuted under general Larceny statutes, most jurisdictions have established a specific category for shoplifting. Statutes vary widely, but generally the elements of shoplifting are (1) willfully taking possession of or concealing unpurchased goods that are offered for sale (2) with the intention of converting the merchandise to the taker's personal use without paying the purchase price. Possession or concealment of goods typically encompasses actions both on and outside the premises.

Concealment is generally understood in terms of common usage. Therefore, covering an object to keep it from sight constitutes concealment, as would other methods of hiding an object from a shop owner. A shopper's actions and demeanor in the store, her lack of money to pay for merchandise, and the placement of an object out of a retailer's direct view are all examples of Circumstantial Evidence that may establish intent.

Shoplifting costs businesses billions of dollars every year. To enable store owners to recoup some of their losses, most states have enacted civil recovery or civil demand statutes. These laws enable retailers to seek restitution from shoplifters. Criminal prosecution is not a prerequisite to a civil demand request. Typically, a representative of or attorney for a victimized business demands a statutorily set compensation in a letter to the offender. If an offender does not respond favorably to the civil demand letter, the retailer may bring an action in Small Claims Court or another appropriate forum.

To forestall any allegations of coercion, many companies initiate civil recovery proceedings only after the shoplifter has been released from the store's custody. It is a criminal offense to threaten prosecution if a civil demand is not paid. Moreover, if a store accuses a customer of shoplifting and the individual is acquitted or if a store makes an erroneous detention, the store may face claims of False Imprisonment, Extortion, Defamation, or intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress.

Further readings

Sennewald, Charles A., and John H. Christman. 1992. Shoplifting. Boston: Butterworth-Heinemann.

Ask a Lawyer


Country: United States of America
State: Florida

caught shoplifting at sears 12/05/05, first time, 20yearsold, have no criminal record.


Make sure you get counsel (or at least the public defender) to try to keep this off your record eventually--jail time is probably not likely if your record is very clear now. But having that arrest and/or a conviction on your record will make job-hunting etc. more difficult. Often this could be negotiated down to some kind of court supervision etc
References in periodicals archive ?
However, it's also been suggested that we wouldn't be going to retail thefts of PS100 and under.
Even with the decline in retail theft, crime put an extra [pounds sterling]180 on the average family's yearly shopping bill," said Professor Joshua Bamfield, director of the Centre for Retail Research.
India has the highest instance of retail theft and its total retail shrinkage is 2.
Relatively weak enforcement and weak penalties, combined with easier methods of fencing stolen goods, such as selling on eBay, have made retail theft an attractive opportunity for organized gangs.
Creator of the Global Retail Theft Barometer survey Prof Joshua Bamfield, said: "This is a serious problem in Ireland, as rising rates indicate.
Vermont now defines retail theft as using counterfeit sales receipts or UPCs/barcodes or tools to deactivate or remove security tags.
MORE than 2000 shoplifters are listed in the database of a crack team tackling retail theft.
Operation Crystal Clear will see officers tackling retail theft at the Talbot Green shopping complex where several large chain stores and outlet shops are based, acting as a magnet for opportunist and experienced thieves.
In addition, Lenox supplies labels designed to help control the continual threat of counterfeiting, retail theft and product tampering with its wide selection of well proven, self-adhesive security labels.
He added that retail theft is larger than motor vehicle theft, household burglary and bank robbery combined.
These will include papers presented by leading brand owners/end users in the food/supermarket, drugs, drinks, cosmetics/toiletries and household/consumer products sectors; package protection requirements and solutions ranging from counterfeit deterrence, retail theft and tamper resistance; package authentication and verification requirements; and logistics, handling and storage, and supply chain management--including RFID, smart labels, and chipless labels.