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“Shoplifting” refers to the burglary of the products from one store of business to the other. Shoplifting is a type of robbery in which a person takes someone else’s property without their consent with the intention of never returning it back to them.
Although many states punish their citizens for shoplifting according to their theft laws, there are some states that have not made laws for shoplifting. States can refer to the crime under different names, including “retail theft” and “concealment of goods”.

These state laws differ widely, but basically, shoplifting crimes include two factors:

  1. concealment or voluntary possession of items offered for sale; and
  2. the intention to deprive the rightful owner of the items (usually the store) of possession of the items, without paying the purchase price.

Above all, this means that in many states, people can break shoplifting laws without actually walking out of a store with stolen goods. It is often enough to hide goods, inside or outside the store. There must be an intention to remove the item from the store, however, many states consider the concealment of goods as proof of intention.

In addition to hiding an item to avoid paying for it, shoplifting laws also prohibit taking steps to avoid paying the full purchase price of an item. This may include changing price tags, handling goods, and placing goods in different containers or packaging to avoid paying all or part of the purchase price.

Severity Of Shoplifting Charges

Like charges for other robbery types, the severity of shoplifting charges basically depends on the value of the products involved. If firearms, explosives or incendiary devices are shoplifted, the severity of charges increases in many states.

States laws often include a range of charges, and can allow prosecutors discretion in deciding which charges to pursue in a given case. In many states, the range of shoplifting charges ranges from a low-level “offense” to an offense, to varying degrees of crime charges. In some states, any shoplifting offense will be considered at least one offense.

Often, the prosecutor will be able to choose between multiple levels of charges. Previous criminal convictions, particularly previous robbery convictions, regularly play an important role in the prosecutor’s decision to prosecute. In some states, prior robbery convictions automatically result in a more severe charge.

Typically, infractions result in a fine. Depending on the state, misdemeanor charges may result in jail time (less than one year), probation and/or a fine. Crimes can result in a longer prison sentence, probation and / or a higher fine. State laws vary widely as to the severity of shoplifting costs. In some places, any shoplifting offense can result in a prison sentence.

In-Store Detention Of Shoplifters

Since shoplifting poses a great threat to retailers, the question of how far they can go to stop shoplifters is an old one.

Individuals cannot generally legally detain people against their will. This opens the door to civil, even criminal, liability for false imprisonment. However, many states have enacted laws that specifically allow stores and their employees to detain suspected shoplifters in certain circumstances. These laws protect stores from prosecution for false imprisonment or false arrest.

Although these laws vary, store owners and their employees are generally authorized to detain a person when they have reasonable grounds to suspect shoplifting. However, any such detention of a shoplifter must be of reasonable duration and duration.

Detentions without probable cause, for an unreasonable or unreasonable period, may expose the store to prosecution in the event of false imprisonment and possibly other claims.

What constitutes a probable cause of suspicion of shoplifting comes down to each case. Mere suspicion typically will not suffice. Most states require that the store or its employees have evidence that would lead a reasonable person to believe that shoplifting has taken place or is in progress. If the store bases its detention of an alleged shoplifter on information from a non-employed informant, that informant must have a reasonable basis to suspect shoplifting.

The appropriate length of detention is also summed up on a case-by-case basis. However, the detention continued for the purpose of obtaining a confession from the suspect, or for the purpose of causing the suspect to sign a waiver of responsibility for the store, would be considered unreasonable under many states’ laws. Such detentions could leave a store liable for false imprisonment.

In terms of the manner of detention, the use of excessive force may be deemed unreasonable. Unreasonable detention could lead the store and its employees liable for false imprisonment and other crimes, such as battery or assault.


Shoplifting is a type of theft involving the taking or concealing of items offered for sale. Depending on state law and factors, including the value of shoplifted items, it may be charged as an offense, a misdemeanor or a felony, and may result in incarceration, probation and/or a fine.

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