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Can using the self-checkout lead to shoplifting charges?

On Behalf of | May 1, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

If you are like many residents of New Jersey, you are busier nowadays than ever. Even though trips to the store take you away from other tasks, shopping for essential items is something everyone must do. You can speed up your trip considerably by using the self-checkout lane, of course.

While there is nothing inherently wrong with using the self-checkout aisle, doing so can expose you to criminal prosecution. That is, if you ring up an item incorrectly or forget to scan one, you might face shoplifting charges. Luckily, you probably have some options for defending yourself.

Your intentions

According to a 2019 study by the National Retail Federation and others, prosecutors spend roughly $2,000 prosecuting each shoplifting case. Despite this expense, they tend to take shoplifting offenses seriously. Prosecutors cannot try to convict you on a whim or hunch, though.

Because you must intend to deprive the store of its property, it is not possible to shoplift accidentally. If you make a good-faith effort to be diligent when going through the self-checkout lane, you are unlikely to be guilty of shoplifting.

Your history

Regardless of what you say, prosecutors might believe you intended to shoplift merchandise. If so, it can be beneficial to explore your criminal record. That is, if you have no previous shoplifting incident on your record, it might be easier for you to assert you made an unintentional error at the self-checkout.

Because self-checkout lanes keep personnel costs low, store owners love them. You simply are not a professional cashier, though. Ultimately, you should not face harsh legal consequences for making a common and unintentional error when going through a self-checkout aisle.