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Can a Store Charge You with Shoplifting After You Leave?
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Shoplifting carries serious penalties in the State of California, even though it’s a relatively common crime. If you make it out of the store without getting caught, is there a risk that you could be charged later? The answer may surprise you. 

California Statute of Limitations for Shoplifting

In California, theft is considered a wobbler crime. This means that the crime can either be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. The statute of limitations on theft is either one or three years, respectively, and the store can press charges against you at any time during this window after the shoplifting incident. 

Is There Enough Evidence? 

Most stores today have video cameras designed to monitor every corner of the store any time the doors are open. Theft can result in significant financial losses, so prevention is key for many retail establishments. Typically, video surveillance is used to identify shoplifters so the theft can be prevented before the stolen item(s) leave the store. 

However, if you were caught stealing on camera, you may be charged with shoplifting weeks later, even if you left the store without so much as a sideways glance. It’s unlikely but possible, and video evidence can be difficult to refute. If you have an alibi for the time and date of the incident, this can help clear your name. Or, if the footage is unclear and it’s impossible to tell for sure that it’s you, your attorney may be able to argue a case of mistaken identity.  

Should You Return to the Store? 

Generally speaking, you shouldn’t return to a store that you’ve shoplifted from but weren’t caught. It’s possible that they’ve posted your photograph if they were able to record surveillance footage of you, or an employee may recognize you if the same one is working again. If the item(s) stolen were high in monetary value, you can expect the store to be more aggressive at attempting to locate you and press charges against you. 

When to Call a Criminal Defense Attorney

Don’t let shoplifting charges ruin your life. The penalties are stiff, especially if a judge decides that the value of the items was high enough that you should be charged with a felony. Your future, finances, career, and relationships are at stake when you’re facing criminal charges. Don’t wait to get help from an experienced criminal defense lawyer in your area. Contact Visco & Wohl Criminal Defense today for a consultation at 951-384-7375.