What Usually Happens When Someone Is Caught Shoplifting

Most people are caught shoplifting by a store’s security staff.

They are usually undercover, not in uniform, and hired by the store to keep a watch on suspicious characters. Store security wait until the person who has stolen items walks past the cash register without paying. The person does not necessarily have to leave the store, and they might be apprehended at that point. Sometimes store security will wait for the person to leave the store and then follow. The security person will then arrest the suspect for theft under $5000, which is the legal term for shoplifting.

If you are apprehended, you will be taken to an office where the security person will tell you that you were observed stealing something and you are being charged with theft under $5000. The security people may or may not read you your rights to counsel. The police are called. When they arrive on the scene, they will formally charge you, read you your rights to counsel and then, upon arrest, will search you.

Store security people are not supposed to look through your bags. That is something they usually should let the police do if they have suspicions or reasonable grounds to arrest somebody. They can do it, but usually they will simply seize your bags with the items and then let the police get involved.

Ideally, what should happen is that the security guard follows somebody for an extended period of time and observes them putting the items in their bags or pockets or so forth. The security person should apprehend them, tell them they were seen stealing items and that the police will be involved, and then wait for the police to come and take over. Ideally, the police will then determine whether or not the suspect did in fact take anything. Generally, however, the security officers will take the bags, search for the stolen items, and then announce that they are making an arrest and call the police.

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If you, or someone you care about, is dealing with criminal law issues in the Oshawa, Ontario Region, contact Mitch Engel Barrister & Solicitor for a consultation.

This article is taken from a April 11, 2008 interview with Mitch Engel, Criminal Lawyer with Mitch Engel Barristers Solicitors, Oshawa, Ontario Criminal Law Firm. Note that laws vary from province to province. Please consult with a lawyer in your own area to be sure of the laws and specific issues in your own jurisdiction.