Wheels of Justice
Accused of shoplifting
I was accused of shoplifting in the store at a truck stop. I didn’t shoplift, but they called the cops and my company. Now I have a ticket, and my boss wants me to bring the truck to the terminal for a talk, and I’m on my way there now. What can I do?
One bit of good news is that shoplifting is considered theft or larceny, and any conviction will appear on your criminal record, not your CDL.
Every time a thief steals from a retailer, the retailer must increase his merchandise price to you to cover the loss. The net result is every family in America pays an additional $435 to purchase items to cover the annual $42.2 billion dollar loss to shoplifting, according to the CNN Money Report aired on Nov. 11, 2009.
There are usually two elements to shoplifting: (1) willfully taking or concealing merchandise that hasn’t been purchased, and (2) the intent to convert the merchandise for personal use without paying the purchase price. Any covering of an object to keep it out of sight of the merchant constitutes the concealment element of the crime. Retailers may, in most states, detain a suspect if they have probable cause. Probable cause in shoplifting laws is having a direct knowledge of an offender’s approach, selection, concealment, movement, and/or modification of an item and the offender’s failure to pay before attempting to exit the store. In addition to prosecution for the crime, the shoplifter is usually banned from the store and must return the pilfered items.
Prosecuting shoplifters is often an easy win for the government thanks to video surveillance the vast majority of stores now have. The prosecutor has the video, witnesses such as the security personnel, store employees and even the customers. He may file either petty theft or petty larceny (both are misdemeanors), or even felony grand theft if the price of the object is expensive, usually more than $300 to $500, de-pending on the jurisdiction.
The law doesn’t always favor the retailers. If a retailer accuses someone of shoplifting and that person is acquitted, civil claims can then be made against the retailer for negligence, emotional distress or possibly even false imprisonment.
The bad news is that your boss could legally terminate you if you are found guilty. You could also be prohibited from returning to truck stop stores across the country. This requires a conviction, so you need to hire a criminal attorney to assist you. Talk to the attorney before talking to your boss, as he may be called to testify against you if you admit to the crime.
Jim C. Klepper is president of Interstate Trucker Ltd., an organization that provides legal defense protection to commercial drivers. Jim is a lawyer who focuses on transportation law and the trucking industry in particular. He works to answer your legal questions about trucking, and he holds his Commercial Drivers License.
Jim C. Klepper
Attorney at Law