Now that COVID-19 has changed the supercenter landscape, it is not surprising that self-checkout shoplifting charges have increased. There are legitimate cases where people have intended on defrauding businesses knowing that they can “accidentally” forget to scan the item or to “think they heard the beep” before bagging the item(s). However, there are some instances where you might have truly forgotten to scan an item or the item really did not ring up and you did not notice it. Self-checkout employees are tasked with helping multiple customers at one time while also watching for potential theft – it’s a task that can be too much, leading to false accusations and embarrassment for all parties involved. If accused, the damage to your reputation could be devastating, along with potential legal fees, and worse, conviction if found guilty. So, what do you do if you were charged with shoplifting while using self-checkout?
What Is Shoplifting?
Shoplifting is purposely hiding or concealing an item and then willfully leaving the business with the intention of not paying for the merchandise or paying less than the full amount of the item; re-packing or re-labeling an item falls into the shoplifting category.
The Problem With Self-Checkout
Self-checkout has numerous problems that can lead to false accusations, some include:
- Customers are not employees, so they do not feel an obligation to worry about the store or a few missed items.
- Customers are not trained to listen for a beep, so they may inadvertently “scan” an item and keep on bagging; the item might not have scanned.
- Customers have a lot of things on their mind and they might overlook an item while scanning their items.
- Customers can change the price themselves on some kiosks; meaning they may remember seeing an item at a different price and change it themselves.
- Customers can alter the weight of an item they are paying for by lifting on the item or holding the item rather than letting it sit on the counter/weight station.
- Self-checkouts can improperly report a customer as stealing an item when they did not.
While self-checkout systems work to “speed up the process”, there are some cases where they slow down everything and even cause frivolous situations that could have been avoided by using a cashier instead.
Can Stores Keep You From Leaving?
In Alabama, stores can detain customers that they suspect of shoplifting. We have all seen videos where a customer is being detained, arguing their right to leave without being searched. In Alabama, if they suspect you of shoplifting, they can refuse your ability to leave until they can prove probable cause for search and/or possible arrest.
What Can You Do?
Stores have to be able to prove that you shoplifted to have you arrested. Without proof, they cannot do anything other than detain you for a reasonable period of time. You should calmly, but promptly, ask for a review of the evidence against you. If they are unwilling to show proof, ask to leave. If they refuse, contact your local law enforcement and request they come to the store to validate/invalidate the claims against you.
Schedule a Confidential Consultation with Alabama Criminal Defense Lawyer Tim Fleming
If you have been arrested for shoplifting, whether while using a self-checkout kiosk or not, contact a criminal defense lawyer to see what your legal options are. There are several defense options for most individuals, and as long as you remain calm and collected, there is a chance that you can have the charges reduced and/or dismissed.
If you have been a victim of domestic violence, do not wait until it is too late. Contact the police and/or go to the courthouse to file for a Protection from Abuse (PFA) Order.
To speak with us confidentially, call us at (251) 304-0888 or use our online contact form.