My question involves criminal law for the state of: PA, Philadelphia.
I went into a grocery store to buy a couple things. I suspect I was put on watch because 1. I had a small canvas tote in front/baby part of cart 2.I am an indecisive shopper, I dawdle and I always try on the beauty/health samples and change my mind about what I buy. 3. Am very noticable and easy to track because I am slow and use a brace/crutch, which I can sometimes put in the cart and lean on the cart, which I did. I also looked a bit unkempt as I had come from physical therapy. I had ipad open as my list is on it, I pad was on it layng over canvas tote which contained a sweater (stores get chilly), eye drops, medications, medical ID,water bottle- the tote goes everywhere with me, like a purse. My pockets were filled with keys phone, wallet and cigarette pack. I at length picked stuff I wanted to buy. A dozen roses went in big part of cart. I chose two items from beauty aisle after trying samples and put them in front of cart NEAR the tote because I always keep small items in the front in case they fall BUT NEVER in or under my tote. I found a sample I wanted to try and picked it up in my left hand. Just then I saw some coupons in a bin and picked them up in the same hand. I am used to not using my right hand cus its my crutch hand. I put my hand in my pocket to drop the coupons in and put the sample item in the front of my cart, because I wanted to carry it with me and try it after the last one wore off. Which may cause suspicion, but I wasn't going to take it out of the store. I walked about 15 ft down the aisle. A large muscled man in a security t shirt came up behind me and to the side and told me to come with him to the front office of the store. I asked why. He said he saw me take something & put it in my pocket. This really offended me and I said I did not take anything but coupons and that I would not go with him, I was shopping and he was free to walk with me and watch me if he thought I was suspicious as I realize thats his job. He said another employee saw too. I said you must be mistaken and I offered to empty my tote bag. He declined and asked me to empty my pockets. I took everything out and put it on the front part of cart. Then there was too much and some of the small items fell out the front of the cart. I used my cane to pick them up. I showed him the coupons. He pointed out the sample and said it had come out of my pocket. This was not true and I said it did not. At that point several employee surrounded me. I continued to refuse to go with them and I became louder and insistent I had done nothing wrong so I held my ground. i realized he must believe what he was accusing me so I did not go with him because I felt that would be admitting I did something wrong. One employee said "I am the manager". I said to him that I had not concealed anything but the coupons in my pocket and the security guard was mistaken and I had money and was shopping. I was very upset. I said to the manager that you can search me and if you find anything you can arrest me but if you don't i will sue the LP company. The manager said to the security guard "we cant search him" and to me "ok, just go pay for your stuff". I wasnt even done shopping! but I just went to pay for the stuff. I was waiting in line and fuming. I looked at them and they were arguing about whether to call police. I thought why should I even shop here when there are 2 other stores of that chain I can just do all my shopping at in peace. So I left my merchandise in line and walked out of the store offended. They followed me out. I got in my car - which is in the disability space so very obvious- and I took the picture of them with my phone. They were taking pics of me and my car. I drove out past them. I was really angry and went to library. Then I calmed down. I thought he is probably just trying to do his job and I can see why he may originally thought I was putting something in pocket. Also when I was a teenager I stole nailpolish a few times (far away, 20 years ago) so maybe this was karma for that.
The more I think on it maybe it looked suspicious to leave without buying anything, but it seemed stupid to buy a few stuff and then have to go to the same store across town to buy the rest, and besides I was very offended and concerned they would call the police, which I did not have time to deal with then as I had an appt.
Now I am very concerned if they have my license # they will send police after me or court case, even though I took NOTHING from the store. I remember when i was a teen my boyfriend stole cigarettes once when i was with him and we got in car and they chased. And then they tracked us down and I had to go to court and even though they had no evidence or video, they said they saw ME steal them too and I was found guilty, not of his accomplice (which would make sense) but of doing it myself simply because 1 employee said she saw me do it. So I am afraid that even though I did nothing wrong I will be found guilty because one idiot thought he saw me try to pocket something.
More than that, I feel deeply offended that they actually believe I took something, enough to follow me and take my photo.
1. Can they call police and use my license plate # to find me and charge me?
2. If so, will I be found guilty simply on the word of the security guy (and possibly another employee, unless he made that up)?
3. Assuming they don't pursue, it really bothers me that they believe I took it. Is there anything I can do to clear my name with the store?
4. Or should I just shop at the other store? I know that is probably more efficient, but it really bothers me I have to change my habits for something I did not do or that they have my picture up as a thief even though I emptied my pockets and offered to empty my bag.
Thank you. I apologize for length, but I wanted to include anything you might need to know.