I shoplifted and was caught on video – Should I just plead guilty to shoplifting?
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It is common for someone charged with shoplifting to be faced with the prospect of video evidence in his or her case, capturing the act of the alleged shoplifting – particularly when the store involved is a larger store like a supermarket, department store, or somewhere like Target or Wal Mart, as opposed to a small business.


Faced with video evidence, a person charged with shoplifting may understandably feel trapped, as though the outcome of their case is inevitable, and it is best to just go ahead and plead guilty, putting the entire matter behind them. This is not the case.


First, the video evidence may not itself be incontrovertible. While the loss prevention officer may have watched the video and claimed it showed you stealing, the video could potentially be used by an attorney to argue that while an item was concealed, it was not concealed intentionally, or not done with the intent to permanently deprive the store of the item itself. For example, a distracted mother dealing with a young child may not be paying attention to her shopping, and could easily forget that something was placed in her purse or her cart when it comes time to check out and make payment. Alternatively, some stores may contact you before you leave the premises because you are placing items in your bag – but placing items in your bag does not necessarily mean you intend to steal them.


Second, even if the video evidence is itself incontrovertible, a criminal defense attorney can mitigate your case and reduce any negative possible consequences. A lawyer may be able to ensure the case does not go on your record, eliminate a fine, reduce any community service, or reduce or eliminate a jail sentence if the charge is not your first offense. Just because you are guilty does not mean you should walk in and accept whatever outcome is proposed by the prosecuting attorney. A shoplifting defense lawyer will do whatever is necessary to secure the best possible outcome given the unique facts and circumstances of your case.


Sometimes, the video can actually be helpful in a case. Perhaps the loss prevention officer exaggerated or lied in his report, and the video can corroborate your version of events. In any case where an overzealous loss prevention officer uses excessive force, the video can be helpful as well. In situations were the video may be helpful to the defense of your case, your attorney may want to subpoena the record as quickly as possible as such surveillance footage is not retained for long by retailers.