Shoplifting, or retail theft, is the act of taking property from a store. Shoplifting can be classified as petit theft (petty theft) if the value of the property is less than $300.00. Shoplifting can be classified as grand theft if the value of the property is greater than $300.00.
The primary witness in almost all shoplifting cases is the LPO, or Loss Prevention Officer. This is the store security officer. These "officers" are not law enforcement officials. They are private security guards who work for the retail establishment. Although some may be off-duty cops who work as LPOs part-time, most are not affiliated with law enforcement.
The LPO will observe a shoplifting subject either on the floor, which means they are watching the subject live and in person, or by CCTV (closed-circuit television), which means they are watching the subject on a video monitor. If the LPO observes the subject on CCTV, then a videotape of the incident will be available for inspection by the defense. Even if the LPO observes the subject via floor surveillance, there still may be a videotape available.
The LPO will detain the subject. An LPO is authorized by law to detain a suspected shoplifter. They will take the subject to the loss prevention office and ask a series of questions. Miranda rights are not required to be read because the LPO is not a police officer. However, anything you say to the LPO can be used against you in court.
The LPO may ask you to empty your pockets or any bag that you may have on your person. The LPO will then inventory the property, take photos, and ask you to write or sign a statement. You do not have to write or sign the statement.
If the store wishes to prosecute, they will call the police. Police will arrive and they will either arrest you (in the case of a felony) or issue you a promise to appear (PTA) in the case of a misdemeanor. However, a police officer may physically arrest you for a misdemeanor charge.
As you can see, the police officer has a very limited role in a shoplifting case. They are merely there to make the legal arrest. Most of the time, the officer did not witness anything. That is why it is so important never to make a statement to the police. Don't make the cop a better state witness!
In almost all shoplifting prosecutions, the prosecutor can present a case to a jury with only the testimony of the LPO. The cop's testimony is not necessary.
At trial, the prosecutor will put on the testimony of the LPO. They may also show the jury exhibits, such as any statements that you wrote or signed for the LPO, any surveillance video, and any photographs of the allegedly shoplifted property.
If the jury finds the testimony of the LPO credible, they can find you guilty.
However, it is crucial that the state be able to prove their case. This means that essential witnesses must be present and ready to testify.
If you or a loved one have been charged with shoplifting in Miami-Dade or Broward, call me.