It is a well-known fact that individuals accused of crimes are not always guilty, and sometimes, discriminatory practices such as profiling can cause innocent people to be treated as would-be criminals. This is common in high-level courts, and it may be even more common in lesser situations, such as an alleged shoplifting offense. If you have been accused of stealing in a store, there are a few things to consider.

There are a few outcomes that may follow, with three, in particular, being the most common. If the situation involves law enforcement or otherwise becomes legally significant, you should reach out to a legal representative prior to engaging with any of the individuals who are questioning or detaining you.

In-store detainment

Though the legality of this practice is questionable, some stores opt to detain individuals who are suspected of stealing and question them within the premises. This is often done by security guards and loss prevention officers, and according to Lifehacker, you may be pressured to admit guilt under the threat of further involving law enforcement. You should never sign anything or admit anything, though, without consulting with an attorney. 

Civil demand letter

Sometimes a store will not detain you on the spot, but will instead send you a civil demand letter detailing the items allegedly stolen and demanding payment for their value plus additional fees. Several stores have encountered PR disasters and legal quagmires for this practice, but it persists nonetheless. If you receive such a letter, do not acquiesce to its demands without first learning all your legal options.

Criminal charges filed

In some cases, a retailer will escalate your case directly to law enforcement and file criminal charges against you. If you are criminally charged with shoplifting, even if it is a misdemeanor, the conviction may stay on your record forever. Criminal convictions will affect your ability to find employment and enjoy other necessities in life. It is vital to invest in a defense that will clear your name.