Should I plead guilty and pay the fine, or not guilty and go infront of the judge?

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Should I plead guilty and pay the fine, or not guilty and go infront of the judge?

I was arrested for shoplifting. I put items in my purse, but changed my mind & put them inside a dressing room. When I went to leave they stopped me, but found nothing on me. They said they saw me on camera and the fact that I was going to steal them was enough to arrest me.

Asked on May 26, 2009 under Criminal Law, Georgia

Answers:

L.M., Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

If a store employee or owner of a business suspects a person of stealing from the store, they have a right to detain the person until police show up. While waiting for law enforcement, they can conduct their own investigation to see if there was an attempt to steal something from their store. However, this investigation should be done in a reasonable fashion and must be immediate.

The store’s employee or business owner cannot look or reach inside of a person’s concealed bag or purse or search the person unless they actually saw them steal something and hide it. If another customer or employee alerted them to the matter, the item would have to be in plain view.

It is also the responsibility of the merchant to let the person go if nothing was actually stolen. I would recommend you get a shoplifting attorney in your state to discuss the best course of action.  It appears the store's insistance on having you arrested when you left the merchandise at the store may be a misguided attempt to save face.  Didn't they get you on camera leaving the merchandise in teh dressing room?  Talk to an attorney right away.


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