(redirected from shoplifter)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Financial, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.


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.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Ask a Lawyerwhat's this?


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
These questions and answers are provided by ©2000 - 2007 by, Inc.
References in periodicals archive ?
The suspected shoplifter flees after knocking over a pensioner
A Cleveland Police spokeswoman said: "We were called by staff at the Iceland store reporting that they had detained an alleged shoplifter.
The manager of Morrisons, Cardiff Bay, suffered a head injury pursuing suspected shoplifters outside the store ROB BROWNE
A new 'exclusion zone' to crack down on prolific shoplifters operating in Accrington town centre has been introduced after brazen offenders were uncovered 'stealing to order'.
In fact, this past December, four Home Depot employees in Florida were fired for their attempts to stop a shoplifter, as it is against Home Depot's store policy.
A STORE worker had a glass bottle smashed over his head when he challenged three suspected shoplifters.
The 48-year-old woman has a concealed weapon permit, but police say she apparently wasn't being threatened by the shoplifter. Auburn Hills police Lt.
Also, I'm sure many former and current retail workers like myself who have been abused, assaulted and had our jobs put at risk by serial shoplifters too lazy or uneducated to get a real job, will be disgusted by his remarks.
The third type of shoplifter has gotten a lot more press recently: "the professional shoplifter." "This type is stealing to resell.
"Studies have shown that 60% of all shoplifters return to the stores they've stolen from," said Bill Bregar, president of Loss Prevention Systems (, a consulting firm based in Atlanta, GA.
If a known shoplifter comes here we will approach them and ask them to leave.
TALK One shoplifter was even described, by a copper no less, as a "loveable rogue", while Alan Fawcett was called a 'celebrity shoplifter' by the narrator, making him out to be some kind of hero with his clever methods.