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  1. #1
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    Jun 2010
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    Default Wrongly Accused of Shoplifting - What Are My Rights

    I was shopping at a ROSS store in San Francisco about a week ago with a friend of mine, and she decided to attempt to steal some merchandise. After we had exited the store and gotten a good 15 feet from the door, someone from loss prevention stopped us and brought us back into the store. Despite the fact that it was my friend who did the shoplifting the man from loss prevention informed me that I was considered an accessory to the crime because I had handled the merchandise prior to her stealing it. He even went further and insisted that he had seen me put the merchandise into her bag "with his own two eyes," which is a flat out lie, because I did no such thing. However when I attempted to defend myself, the cop on duty told me there was no use arguing and all I was going to do was piss him off, which I shouldn't do if I didn't want him to press charges. The man from loss prevention told me he had me on camera as well. The only footage he has of me on camera is of me looking at merchandise on the rack, as well as me waiting to get on an escalator (I know this because he showed me). He then took all of my information, filled out some paperwork, and after learning that I had no prior convictions for anything decided to let me go. He told me I wasn't allowed to go into any ROSS store within the next year, and that they would be sending me a civil demand letter along with a fine anywhere from $50 to $500.

    Here are my questions:

    First of all, I'm wondering if it's even legal to stop someone for shoplifting when they've gotten so far away from a store. From everything I've ever been told you have to be stopped at the door-no one from loss prevention is allowed to follow you outside once you've reached public space. I don't know however whether there are any actual laws regarding this.

    Second of all, I'm wondering if there's any way to fight this. It all seems extremely fishy to me, and I'll be damned if I'm going to pay $50 to $500 that I don't have for something I didn't actually do. The man from loss prevention told a bold faced lie about my involvement in this incident, and when he stopped me and my friend I was found with NONE of the stolen merchandise on my person. In other words, I didn't steal a damn thing. Not to mention, he doesn't have anything on camera. It boils down to the fact that it's my word against his. Is there anything that can be done? Do I have any rights/what are my rights in this situation?

  2. #2
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    Mar 2009
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    Default Re: Wrongly Accused of Shoplifting in California-Questions About My Rights

    3 words: Criminal Defense Lawyer.

  3. #3
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    Oct 2005
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    Default Re: Wrongly Accused of Shoplifting in California-Questions About My Rights

    I wouldn't hire a lawyer and I wouldn't pay the civil demand. You're not going to be arrested and your chances of being sued are incredibly close to zero. I WOULD stay out of Ross stores.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Wrongly Accused of Shoplifting in California-Questions About My Rights

    Ditto, I would not pay the civil demand.

    Is there even such a charge as accessory to shoplifting in CA?

    You don't need a lawyer at this point and probably not at all.

    If you are not arrested on the spot, you will not be arrested.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
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    28

    Default Re: Wrongly Accused of Shoplifting in California-Questions About My Rights

    Someone can clarify this but in most states you can be charged as an "accessory" and the civil demand is very very difficult to fight. My suggestion is to pay it immediately before it becomes worse....

  6. #6
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    Dec 2009
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    Default Re: Wrongly Accused of Shoplifting in California-Questions About My Rights

    15 feet is nothing, and yes, they are allowed to follow shoplifters out of the store.

    They can ban you from the store for any reason; because they think you don't spend enough money there annually, because they don't like the look of your face, or because they don't like the colour of your skin. (While that last one may be technically illegal, you'd never be able to prove that was the reason anyway.)

    The way to fight it is simple: Don't pay the civil demand. It's not a judgement; you're not actually required to pay it. A civil demand is an offer to settle a claim they have against you for a particular amount. If you think you owe them nothing, you don't have to agree to that settlement. They can sue you, but that doesn't mean they will, especially if they know they probably can't win (and may be sanctioned if their claim is completely baseless).

    Yes, it is possible to be guilty as an accessory, but this requires more than your physical presence; you must have materially aided the commission of the crime in some way. Standing watch while your friend conceals items makes you an accessory; shopping while your friend conceals items does not. Your word against his likely isn't enough for a judgement against you, and certainly isn't enough for a criminal conviction.

    For future reference, you probably shouldn't "defend yourself" to the cop. You have the right to remain silent for a reason— remember, anything you say can be (taken out of context, misremembered, misinterpreted and) used against you if you actually get arrested. If you keep quiet, you may get arrested, but you probably won't be convicted and you can sue for wrongful arrest later.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Wrongly Accused of Shoplifting in California-Questions About My Rights

    Quote Quoting TheArgumentative
    View Post
    Your word against his likely isn't enough for a judgement against you, and certainly isn't enough for a criminal conviction.
    Are you joking? Do you know how many people are convicted of crimes every day on the strength of the testimony of a single eyewitness? It's anything but unusual and, surprise, when it's the perp's word against a law enforcement type, the law enforcement types usually win swearing contests.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Wrongly Accused of Shoplifting in California-Questions About My Rights

    Well excuse me for being overly optimistic.

    Of course, your substitution of "the perp" for "the defendant" betrays a certain bias. I'm well aware that a scarily large number of people consider all criminal defendants "guilty even if proven innocent," but I hope the number is smaller than you think. Considering that law enforcement officers have a well-known tendency to lie on the stand, I would hope that most judges recognise that the testimony of an officer is not legally sufficient for a conviction all by itself even if the jury is filled with people who consider "the accused" and "the perpetrator" to be synonymous.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Wrongly Accused of Shoplifting in California-Questions About My Rights

    I'm not really interested in your belief that anybody but a court owes a defendant a presumption of innocence. I was responding to your plainly false statement that if the defendant denied the testimony of an eyewitness, there will not be sufficient evidence to support either a civil or criminal verdict against the defendant. You say "overly optimistic", I say "plainly false - and we should try to stick to the facts."

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Wrongly Accused of Shoplifting in California-Questions About My Rights

    You say "plainly false," I say "true."

    A jury can convict anyway (that's the dark side of jury nullification, but it still happens), but the uncorroborated testimony of one person is not legally sufficient for a conviction.

    Having this argument with someone who believes a priori that all defendants are necessarily guilty is a waste of time and will likely do nothing but irritate both persons involved.

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