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Responding to an accusation of shoplifting in a Louisiana store

Some Baton Rouge defendants don't realize the impact a crime can have. Shoplifting seems like a lightweight offense. Shoplifting merchandise with a value of less than $300 is a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and a jail term no longer than six months.

Steal something worth at least $300 and you're talking about prison time. You could spend two years in prison and pay a $2,000 fine for stealing items worth between $300 and $499. A 10-year term and $3,000 fine are possible for stolen merchandise valued at $500 or more.

Shoplifting is a serious legal problem. How should you respond if a store detains you and accuses you of the crime? You have rights in this situation but so does the store.

A store needs probable cause to detain you. Someone has to see a shoplifter take and conceal store property. It may not be necessary for you to try to leave before security personnel stops you, as long as the store has sufficient reason to believe you stole merchandise.

You are not obligated to say anything or admit anything, although some stores encourage suspected shoplifters to sign a confession. The store may demand restitution even after merchandise is returned. Police may or may not be called to search, arrest and charge you with a theft crime.

Whether the store made a mistake or caught you with merchandise, it makes no sense to react in a way that can harm your legal position. It's understandable you might be upset or tempted to argue or negotiate. Every word you utter and every action you take can be used to build a criminal case against you.

Even if you're wrongly accused, don't take risks. Let a criminal defense attorney take actions on your behalf. Many defendants seriously jeopardize their legal chances by making mistakes before a lawyer is present.

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