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What are my rights if a store falsely accuses me of a crime?

On Behalf of | Dec 3, 2021 | Criminal Defense, Employment Law

More retail stores are shifting to the use of self-checkout stations. Instead of using a store associate to help make sure we get all of our items properly scanned and paid for, stores expect us as customers take care of it ourselves. Although there is often an associate hovering in the area to help if needed, we are pretty much on our own.

This is no problem. We are honest, hard-working people and the store can trust us to responsibly pay for our goods.

But what happens if a store associate does not believe us? What happens when they accuse us of failing to pay and attempting to steal goods?

What happens when a retailer falsely accuses a customer of stealing?

The store itself can go after us for this alleged crime. In addition to filing charges they also have their own ways of holding customers accountable, discussed in more detail in a post available here.

A recent case provides an example of how these accusations can grow into a serious legal issue. The case began in 2016 when a Walmart associate accused a customer of failing to pay for her goods at a self-checkout lane. The store’s accusations led to an arrest and criminal charges for shoplifting, which the prosecution later dropped. After the charges were dropped, Walmart started sending the woman letters stating they would move forward with a civil lawsuit unless she paid a $200 settlement fee. The fee was more than the cost of the groceries they claim she stole.

The woman fought back. She argued that Walmart subjected her to false arrest false accusations and that these actions have negatively impacted her life. Upon reviewing the evidence, the jury agreed and ordered Walmart to pay the victim $2.1 million in damages.

What can others learn from this case?

Those in similar situations can also fight back. Various legal remedies are available and can include claims of slander, malicious prosecution, false imprisonment, and false arrest. As in the case discussed above, these legal remedies can result in the funds needed to help get our lives back on track after trying to deal with the fallout of false allegations of criminal activity.