How Do You Defend Theft Crimes?
Interviewer: Are store personnel allowed to detain you if they see or suspect you of shoplifting?
Stuart: Yes. They do not usually have the power that police do. However, since it was done in their presence, they can detain you. But they can also be sued if something goes wrong. There is a fine line there with the store personnel.
What are some of the things we do when we represent these people? One of the things we do is we run a background check on the store’s security who detained the client.
Probably in 20-30% of the cases, the person who was detaining you- the loss prevention officer or the security guard, has a prior record himself. It is a lot more often than I would have thought; just given the numbers.
Interviewer: What good does that do if the person that detained you has a prior record themselves?
Stuart: Sometimes their employer does not know about it, and they do not want their employer to know about it. So they are much more likely to just kind of throw away the case, and not follow through with it.
Second, it goes against their credibility to some extent if the case does go to trial. For whatever reason, priests, rabbis and nuns are believed more than people with prior records and people with felonies and thefts. It is a black mark on their credibility.
Interviewer: Are there any other tactics you use, that you can talk about, to help defend people for any of these various theft crimes?
Stuart: We almost always send an investigator to the store itself to find out where the cameras are located, where the person was located and to see what they can see.
I had a case many years ago where something happened inside of a store. It was like a bodega or a deli, and they said they saw it from outside. When we went there, there were stickers on the door which did not block the whole door. But they would have stopped a lot of what they could have seen from across the way.
You really have to go to the scene and see what they say they have seen from their vantage point; how the scene is.
We also send a subpoena out for the records from the store. We want not only the videotape that they have on it; but they usually have to fill out internal paperwork within the store itself.
We want those records also. Those are not usually given to the police. They are kept in the store; but are required to be turned over pursuant to the subpoena.