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Shoplifting: A major risk even with lower-priced items

Generally speaking, if you tell someone you once shoplifted, most people wouldn't think much of it. It's fairly common for teens to shoplift and younger adults might even do so in a time of crisis. The problem with shoplifting is that it can get you into deep trouble with the law, even if the item you shoplift isn't worth a lot of money.

While the severity of the charge does depend on how much the item costs, usually, the items are grouped into categories. For example, items between $1 and $500 may be grouped into one category while those worth over $1,000 are in another. Charges may include infractions or misdemeanors for lower-cost items and even be treated as felonies if high-dollar items are stolen.

Can the store place you into detention if you're accused of shoplifting?

The laws vary, but private citizens can't hold people against their will. Each state has its own rules regarding stores, but for the most part, employers can detain shoplifters in certain circumstances. For example, if the owner has caught the person shoplifting and found the item, he or she may detain the individual while waiting for the police to arrive.

Shop owners can normally detain someone if they have reasonable suspicion, even if they do not have the item they suspect was shoplifted. The important thing to remember is that the shop owner has to be reasonable. Detaining someone for 10 or 20 minutes while waiting for a police officer is far different from detaining someone for hours. If you are detained for an unreasonably long period of time, the shop owner may be accused of false imprisonment, and you could have a case against him or her for the way you were treated.

Shoplifting can lead to various charges and penalties. The amount stolen determines the penalties you face, so proving your innocence or a l ower value could help your case. 

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