Being accused of shoplifting can be an embarrassing and confusing experience. People do shoplift, and stores have prevention tactics in place to help reduce the occurrence.
Even with all the loss prevention tactics in place in stores, mistakes happen. A store may suspect you’ve stolen when you haven’t, so it’s important to understand your rights if you’re ever accused of shoplifting.
Here’s what you need to know if you’re accused of shoplifting in Colorado.
What Is Shoplifting in Colorado?
Shoplifting under the law in Colorado is defined as intentionally depriving a retail establishment of its property. The justice system assumes that a person intends to shoplift if they conceal any unpurchased items on their person while inside the store.
If convicted of shoplifting, the penalties depend on the value of the merchandise, starting at $50 or less and going from there. You can face anywhere from six months in jail to 24 years, depending on the situation surrounding the case and the value of the items.
This makes understanding your rights if you’re accused of shoplifting even more important.
24 Years for Shoplifting?
How in the world could someone get 24 years for shoplifting?
As the theft laws for our state are written, someone who steals property worth $1 million or more can face incarceration of up to 24 years and a fine of up to $1 million as well. Now, obviously that isn’t something that’s going to apply to the vast majority of people, and almost never for someone who shoplifts once and gets caught.
However, if you are accused of a series of shoplifting thefts where high-value items were involved, you might be surprised at how quickly the money adds up. Perhaps you won’t reach $1 million-plus, but those accused of stealing $100,000 or more can get up to 12 years. Between $20,000 and $100,000? Up to six years.
The point is, it adds up quickly. This makes understanding your rights if you’re accused of shoplifting even more important.
Rights of the Retailer
It’s important to understand that retailers have rights, too. If they find property on you that they allege to be taken from their establishment, they can have you charged with shoplifting. In most cases, the situation unfolds like this:
- You are questioned by the security or an employee at the store if they suspect you are attempting to shoplift and search you
- They may detain you as they call the police to the scene
- The police arrive and either write a citation or take you into custody, depending on what you’ve been accused of stealing
Your Rights If Accused of Shoplifting
Remember, people make mistakes. If you can show that you actually purchased items with a receipt or some other type of evidence, do that right away.
If you are still accused of shoplifting, it’s crucial to refrain from escalating the situation, even if you have not shoplifted. Remain calm, and remember what rights you do have in the situation, which are:
- The right to see evidence – If the shop has evidence against you or believes they do, you can request to see it.
- The right to remain silent – Remember, you don’t have to say anything if you are accused of shoplifting. The only thing you have to do is identify yourself to the police if they are called.
- The right to representation – You also have the right to be represented by a lawyer at any point in the process. If you are cited or arrested, you definitely need to get an experienced attorney on your side before talking to the police.
Remember, any statements you make can be used against you in court. If you’re under duress, you may say things that do not work in your favor later.
Being accused or charged with shoplifting can feel offensive and humiliating in the moment, but it’s vital to keep your cool. Remember the rights you do have in the situation, and do your best to remain calm and collected. Look at the situation logically. Do not make any unplanned statements.
Most importantly, keep receipts if you’ve purchased something in the store. That can be the difference between shoplifting charges or having an amusing story to tell your friends and family later – once the shock has worn off.
About the Author:
Andrew Bryant is a well-respected Colorado Springs criminal attorney who has been practicing in the area for years. A Colorado native, he returned to the home he loves after graduating from the University of Kentucky College of Law. Now, he uses the knowledge he gained as an El Paso County District Attorney to fight tirelessly for his clients’ rights. He is AV-Preeminent rated, has been recognized for his work by The National Trial Lawyers, and has been named to Best of the Springs lists by The Gazette for years.
Google Docs said this isn’t a word. I see it in the dictionary!