Home > It's A Legal Matter > Shoplifting


By Jeff Terrill

Fort Wayne Reader


A study by the National Retail Federation found that retailers last year lost $32 billion due to shoplifting, vendor and employee theft. The National Association for Shoplifting Prevention (NASP) indicates that more than 10 million people have been caught shoplifting in the U.S. in the last 5 years. 25% of the offenders are juveniles. Over 70% of shoplifters do not plan their crime in advance.

Meet Karlie. She’s not a real person. After school, Karlie and two of her newest friends travel to Wal-Mart. They sit in the car for a few minutes talking about make-up, lotions and clothes that they want. They tell Karlie to shop alongside them and to place several items in a shopping cart. They go on to tell Karlie to leave the shopping cart and follow them out of the store.

Karlie is nervous. She’s taken stuff from her sisters at home but she’s never stolen or helped someone steal from a store. Her friends assure her that they won’t get caught. Karlie knows stealing is wrong but she says nothing.

The three girls walk inside the store unaware of just how conspicuous they appear. Theft prevention employees immediately begin observing the three teenagers through a series of cameras located throughout the store.

The girls head to the cosmetic area and Karlie’s friends place multiple items of make-up and lip-gloss into their pockets. Karlie pushes a cart and occasionally places some items within it. After a few minutes, Karlie’s friends start to walk out of the store. Karlie abandons her shopping cart in an aisle and follows. Before the three girls can even leave the store, an employee grabs them and directs them to an office.

The employee contacts law enforcement and obtains the names and contact information of the girls. Karlie explains that she didn’t take anything. She starts to cry. The employee tells her that she can explain it to the judge.

Under Indiana law, a shoplifter can be charged with the offense of theft or criminal conversion. If the value of the stolen property is $750 or greater, the shoplifter can be charged with felony theft. A person can be charged with felony theft of property worth far less than $750 if that person has a prior conviction for criminal conversion or theft.

In addition to a monetary fine and a jail sentence (or detention in a juvenile facility), a shoplifter can also be held civilly responsible to reimburse the store owner for damages and reasonable attorney fees. The law also allows a store owner or its agent to detain for up to two hours anyone believed to be involved in a theft.

Law enforcement transported all three girls to the juvenile detention facility. Karlie decides she will never steal again – not even from her sisters.


Jeff Terrill is a partner/shareholder with the law firm of Arnold Terrill Anzini, P.C. Mr. Terrill represents clients accused of crimes throughout northeast Indiana. You can contact Mr. Terrill with any questions or comments at his office at 260.420.7777 or via email at jterrill@fortwaynedefense.com. Learn more about his firm at www.fortwaynedefense.com. This article expressed opinions and observations of the author, is not intended as legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader. Please consult a qualified attorney with any legal questions or issues you might have. Thank you

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©2018 Fort Wayne Reader. All rights Reserved.