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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Posts
    2

    Default Drove a Shoplifter To and From the Store

    My question involves criminal law for the state of: Pennsylvania. This occurred about one week ago. I have a "friend" who asked me to stop at a drug store. She said she wanted to pick up a newspaper. I parked, she went into the store and came out a few minutes later with a paper. I had decided to wait in the car. She got back in the car, I drove off. It's a long story but I have reason to think she may have shoplifted a can of Dust Off (she was at one point addicted to inhaling it, apparently still is) and who knows what else while she was in there. I had no idea that is what she planned to do. I later recalled - after putting the pieces together - that she seemed rather annoyed that I was driving off so slowly. (The store is on a busy intersection and it is not easy to pull out of the parking lot.) My question is I am at risk at all here? I had no clue what she was doing.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Posts
    105

    Default Re: Drove a Shoplifter To/from the Store

    I am an attorney and I know a lot about the subject of shoplifting. I am not licensed in Pennsylvania, so I will speak to general principles. Do not take this as creating an attorney-client relationship. Here is my opinion.

    Are you at risk for what has happened so far? Theoretically yes, but as a practical matter, the risk is very low. From your description, your friend apparently got away with it. The vast majority of apprehensions are done on the spot. Even if the store figured out your friend stole something and “made” your vehicle from surveillance video or some other means, the only evidence against you is that you provided transportation to this person. In order to be liable as an accomplice, there has to be some evidence that you knew your friend was stealing and that you assisted in some way. There is evidence of assistance - the transportation - but it sounds like there is no evidence that you knew what she was planning to do.

    The only possible source for evidence against you sounds like your friend. In other words, if she got caught after the fact (sounds unlikely) and then implicated you by her statements for some reason (even more unlikely) then that could be a path for trouble for you. It sounds pretty remote, though.

    However, going forward, the circumstances are different. You have reason to think she is a thief. If you provide transportation under similar circumstances and she steals again, you probably are guilty as an accomplice. It might still be difficult to prove next time if you stay in the car again, but with each repeated theft your risk would increase.

    I would also recommend staying away from that store for quite awhile, perhaps a year or longer. They might have an eye out for you and that could lead to unpleasant experiences.

    As you probably know, your friend needs to get help with this. If she keeps on shoplifting the odds of her getting caught approach certainty. It can cause a lot of grief for a stupid crime.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Michigan
    Posts
    6,808

    Default Re: Drove a Shoplifter To/from the Store

    Logically, I would think this:

    If you knew what she intended to do....you would have parked in a very close parking spot, or been waiting for her to exit the store.

    Aside from what Semblance said...I would not shop with that friend, not transport that friend to a store from now on, either. See, if the store gets your plate number, whose home do you think they will visit first?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Posts
    2

    Default Re: Drove a Shoplifter To/from the Store

    If my "friend" did try to falsely accuse me of knowing what she was up to (I am not sure what motivation she might have to do that, but she has many, many problems so there is no telling what she might say), wouldn't that be just her word against mine? I will spare you the details, but I can assure you that no one with a brain would believe her instead of me.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Posts
    105

    Default Re: Drove a Shoplifter To/from the Store

    No, it would not just be her word against yours because there is circumstantial evidence against you. From your description, you were not simply a bystander. Your were involved in the theft. You aided it by providing transportation to and immediate transportation from the crime, a "getaway car" so to speak. Based on what you said, you are innocent of any crime because you did not know what was going on. However, if your friend accused you, the situation would be different.

    I can imagine scenarios where she might accuse you, even if she didn't really mean to do that. For example, lets say that on this incident a loss prevention (LP) employee at the store is suspicious of her and you. She goes back to the store by herself. She steals again and gets apprehended this time. She confesses. The store LP employee presses her about this incident. She confesses. He presses her further and asks about you, suggesting you were involved. She says yes, maybe just because she is emotionally distraught and rattled. In fact, people accused of crimes say all kinds of things which implicate themselves and others. Even innocent people often confess to something they did not do when they think the evidence is against them and they want to placate the interrogator.

    Now, if that sort of thing happened I am not saying you would necessarily be convicted if charged with theft, but it would not be a simple case of your word against hers. It woud depend on the totality of the circumstances and you would be at risk. In contrast, if she never implicates you, there probably is not enough evidence - from one incident - to convict you.

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