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Should I be worried about shoplifting?

San Francisco, CA |

I went into my local Safeway today to get some groceries, and I noticed I didn't have my wallet. I was really desperate and tried to walk out of the store with the cart, but the cart stopped and an alarm went off. I was scared, and I tried to say I'd already payed for it but didn't get a receipt. The clerk then called a manager to try and figure out if I'd actually bought my groceries, and I ran when they both turned around. Only problem is that my friend, who works there, saw me and said hi to me. Basically they have my name but nothing else. Should I be worried? Will the police look me up? I'm sure I'm in the public database for any number of reasons (school, doctors, vacations, passport, etc.). It was only around $60 worth of merchandise.

tl;dr- I just want to know if Safeway will contact the police or if it's easier for them to just ignore the entire case and move on with it. Some websites say that they'll try and prosecute on any dollar amount and others say that it's too much of a hassle.

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Attorney answers 2


if the police were not summoned to the scene, it is unlikely criminal charges will be filed. You will likely receive a civil demand letter from Safeway's attorney. These letters are threateningly worded to imply that you will face criminal charges if you don't pay up. In fact, they have no force of law whatsoever. Ignore them. To collect they would have to sue you, take you to court and win the case. They will almost certainly not do so over a measly 50 bucks.

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Suggestion: avoid returning to that store at all costs. Most likely the police were not called when you skipped out, but your actions as you describe them are highly suggestive of unlawful intent and you can be certain that reappearance at the scene by you -- even months down the road -- will be noted and may cause action by the store. It is always tempting to assume that if an arrest does not occur at the time of the allegedly unlawful conduct, then there will be no arrest. But that is not the law and not necessarily the practice. Stay out of the store to raise the likelihood that you will not be arrested on these facts.

A further point: your statement of how all of your conduct added up to an honest mistake is not persuasive, not even a little bit. I am not saying it isn't true -- perhaps it is. But your explanation will not be believed by almost anyone who hears it. All the more reason to avoid prosecution by staying away from the store.

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