What you should to if you are caught by Loss Prevention.
1) Remain Silent - A majority of the time, loss prevention officers are just trying to get an admission out of you to solidify their case against you. The worst thing you can do is talk. They may try and trick you into speaking to them by saying "If you help me, I will help you." They do not want to help you, their job is to catch you and turn you over to the police, or cite you and set a court date.
2) When the police arrive, REMAIN SILENT. Under the United States Constitution, you do not have to speak to the police. You have an absolute right to remain silent. So, invoke that right and remain silent.
3) Make sure the amount they are citing you for is correct. A lot of times, Loss Prevention will make the amount higher than it really is. An example of this is you allegedly were trying to steal a shirt that was on sale for $20, but they mark the shirt at its full price of $75. This is very important because if the price is less than $50, you may qualify for an infraction.
The Six Steps Loss Prevention Officers should take before making an arrest.
1) They should actually see you approach the merchandise.
2) They should see you select the merchandise.
3) They should see you either: (a) conceal (b) convert; or (c) carry away the merchandise.
4) They should have continious observation over you.
5) They should see you fail to pay for the merchandise.; and
6) You should be approached outside the store, rather than inside the store.
Now these 6 steps are not all necessary, but if one or more are missing, it may help you have a good defense.
Shoplifting/Petty Theft and your Criminal Record.
Having a theft offense can really impact your future in more than one way. First, it can make finding a job very difficult. Employers usually would rather not hire someone who has a theft offense because of the risk they would be taking in the employer stealing from them.
Also, for immigration purposes, because petty theft/shoplifting is a crime of moral turpitude, it can have harsh immigration consequences. Therefore, a person should take whatever steps necessary to prevent this from going on their record.
Defense of Forgetfulness
Sometimes, people just forget to pay. Sometimes people are on their cell phone while purchasing other articles and forget to pay for one article. Or a person is so tied up with their children making noise that they forget to pay for something and then all of a sudden they see loss prevention officers approaching them. Now, those are only two examples of a possible defense.
The common factor in the examples above are, no intent to steal. If you did not actually have the intent to steal and you can prove it, you may be able to successfully defend this action. Now, this comes with a lot of negotiation with the prosecutor, but if successfully done, it could result in a dismissal of your case.
Other ways the charges can be dropped or dismissed.
Formal Diversion Program: For first time offenders, some prosecutors and their respective branches may offer a diversion program. If successfully completed, you can get the charges dismissed. This isn't available in all courts and sometimes not even offered in the courts that have this program.
Elliot Zarabi Diversion: This is my own program that I work out with the prosecutor. I try and make a deal with them, which usually entails community service and if they agree, a dismissal would be granted.
Request a informal hearing: Sometimes, an informal hearing with the prosecutors office can be held to determine if filing of the charges is necessary.
Reduce the charge: In some cases, a reduction of the charge from a misdemeanor to an infraction for petty theft or a infraction for disturbing the peace may be an option. But of course negotiating this isn't easy.
Additional resources provided by the author
The most important thing in Petty Theft is contact and consulting with an attorney. Do not just go in a plea guilty on your first day. Do not go into court alone, do everything in your power to consult and have an attorney by your side.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. I always offer consultations and would be glad to go over you case.