How Long After Shoplifting Can You Be Caught (And Why)?

Exact Answer: Two To Five Years

Shoplifting is another word for theft of merchandise from outlets. A person is said to have committed shoplifting if they have picked up something from a store and left the premises without paying for the product.

Shoplifting is a punishable offense as per law as it is often considered theft or felony. A person who is found to have done shoplifting can get sentenced to imprisonment, or can even be charged a fine and let go. It all depends on the cost of the product that was shoplifted.

As different states have different laws in place for cases about shoplifting, the accused will be given the punishment as per the state’s law.

How Long After Shoplifting Can You Be Caught

How Long After Shoplifting Can You Be Caught?

Usually, there are electronic chips that are attached to a product. The chip is removed while billing. But, some shoplifters are aware of the trick and manage to either get rid of the chip or pass the exit security point without being detected. Hence, many stores now make it their code of conduct to keep a track of the stocks. They even check the sales records during the closing and sometimes even twice daily. 

How soon a person can be caught is situational. It can have a range of possibilities where a shoplifter can also be caught red-handed while trying to hide a product or can be caught after the team has checked their records and matched it against surveillance. 

However, it is necessary to catch the shoplifter before a stipulated time pre-described by the state to penalize the shoplifter. Some states have a time frame of two years within which the shoplifter needs to be charged, while some states have up to five years.

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The major factor that decides the period under which the shoplifters should be caught is as per the Statute Of Limitations. As per the Statute Of Limitation, there are five degrees of theft. The degree of theft is based on the amount of product that has been shoplifted. The degrees and the statute of limitation vary from state to state

Degree of theftStatute Of Limitation
First Degree3 to 5 years
Second Degree3 to 5 years
Third Degree2 to 4 years
Fourth Degree2 to 3 years
Fifth Degree2 to 3 years

Why Can You Be Caught After Shoplifting For So Long?

Shoplifting is a theft for which a person can get caught immediately or can even evade getting caught. However, given the advancement in technology, shoplifters are usually either caught while exiting the store or when the accounts of the store are being settled for the day. If there is a shortage in the balance sheet, the stocks are checked along with the security footage.

The time after which a person is caught for shoplifting depends upon several reasons. Some of the reasons are as follows:

  • In the case where the shoplifter gets caught while leaving the store, it is at the discretion of the store manager if they want to report it to the police and press charges. If the amount of product that was lifted is petty, the manager can even decide to let go of the shoplifter with a warning.
  • In cases when the person has left the premises, the time for which they can get caught also depends on how long the theft is identified. Once it is found that it is a theft, the shoplifter needs to get identified to get charged against the crime. 
  • The Statute Of Limitation (SOL) plays an imminent role in deciding how long a person can get caught after shoplifting. SOL has defined different degrees of a felony. As per the SOL, some states have a time frame of three years, while some have five years for a first-degree felony.
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Conclusion

However, even after the person has been caught for shoplifting, they have the right to a fair trial, but it is applicable when the person is caught within the Statute Of Limitations. 

Once the Statute Of Limitations ends, the accused cannot be prosecuted even if there is evidence found against them. So a person can be caught in an hour, in a day, in a few weeks, or even in five years for the charges of Shoplifting.

References

  1. https://scholarlycommons.law.hofstra.edu/hlr/vol1/iss1/18/
  2. https://researchrepository.wvu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3740&context=wvlr