Is Self-Checkout Theft A Felony?

Eftpos Machine at Self Checkout in a supermarket concept

Self-checkout lanes have been around for decades. They rose to prominence in the early 2000s as stores sought to lower labor costs during a period of economic recession. Today, self-checkout lanes are everywhere. While they have helped retailers address staffing shortages, they created the new problem of customers stealing from self-checkout.

Self-Checkout Theft Techniques

One reason self-checkout theft is common is because it is relatively easy. Customers use a variety of techniques with creative names, like the “switcheroo,” the “pass around,” and the “banana trick” to steal items from self-checkout.

A customer who uses the “switcheroo” peels the sticker off of a cheaper item and places it on a different, more expensive item. To be successful, the items must weigh about the same, otherwise the item will trigger the scanner’s alarm system.

Other customers use “the banana trick,” also known as “weight abuse.” They place an expensive, heavy item on the scale while scanning the code for a cheaper item of produce. An example is ringing up a $13.99/lb T-bone steak for the price of $.49/lb. bananas.

Another trick is the “pass-around,” where a customer takes the item around the scanner and places it on the conveyor belt without scanning the item.

While self-checkout theft can be easy to accomplish, there are severe consequences if you are caught.

Self-Checkout Theft Prosecution

Three groups of customers are prosecuted for self-checkout theft: those who intended to steal, those who stole by mistake, and those who are innocent of self-checkout shoplifting.

Unfortunately, because retailers are so busy with self-checkout theft prosecution, they are unlikely to consider that someone actually stole an item by mistake. This means you could still face self-checkout theft prosecution even if you did not intend to steal. And in most cases, it will be your word versus the store.

If you are charged with self-checkout theft, remember that you have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. Don’t answer questions from the store’s loss prevention agents or the police. Instead, politely tell them that you are asserting your right to remain silent and insist on having an attorney present before you answer any questions.

Consequences of Self-Checkout Theft

Self-checkout theft is usually charged as larceny. Connecticut divides the crime of larceny into six categories based on the value of the item(s) you were charged with stealing.

  • Class C Misdemeanor – The value of the stolen items is under $500. Penalties include a $500 fine and up to three months in jail.
  • Class B Misdemeanor – The value of the stolen items is between $500 and $1,000. Penalties include a fine of $1,000 and up to six months in jail.
  • Class A Misdemeanor – The value of the stolen items is between $1,000 and $2,000. Penalties include a fine of up to $2,000 and up to one year in jail.
  • Class D Felony – The value of the stolen items is between $2,000 and $10,000. Penalties include a fine of up to $5,000 and up to five years in prison.
  • Class C Felony – The value of the stolen items is between $10,000 and $20,000. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000 and up to 10 years in prison.
  • Class B Felony – The value of the stolen items is over $20,000. Penalties include a fine of up to $15,000 and up to 20 years in prison.

It is also worth noting that larceny is considered a crime of moral turpitude. If you are ever questioned in court, you might be asked if you have ever been convicted of a crime of moral turpitude. A conviction for larceny can be used to call into question your character for honesty and trustworthiness.

Defenses to Charges of Self-Checkout Shoplifting

For a first-time charge of larceny, a skilled Connecticut criminal defense attorney can likely have the charges dropped in exchange for a charitable contribution or community service hours. You might also be eligible for a diversion program that could result in the charges being dismissed.

If you are facing more serious charges, Connecticut criminal defense attorney Stephen Lebedevitch will carefully analyze the circumstances of your case and develop an effective defense strategy. Defending against larceny charges often involves negating the element of intent. To convict a person of larceny, the state must prove that you intended to commit the crime. An honest mistake or being absent-minded, distracted, or confused can all be defenses to charges of larceny because they negate the element of intent.

Mistaken identity is another defense to larceny charges. In reviewing security footage, the store’s loss prevention agents may have inadvertently accused the wrong person or accused you simply because you happened to have purchased an item that is now missing. This is one reason you should retain receipts, especially when you use self-checkout.

Contact The Lebedevitch Law Firm for Defense Against Self-Checkout Theft Charges

If you have been charged with self-checkout theft, you should consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Even though shoplifting may seem like a minor offense, the consequences of a conviction could be severe. Attorney Lebedevitch will evaluate your case, develop a comprehensive defense strategy, and challenge the allegations against you.

The Lebedevitch Law Firm has years of experience defending people charged with larceny and other theft crimes in Connecticut. We will evaluate your case and provide a vigorous defense.

The Lebedevitch Law Firm is based in Fairfield and represents people charged with crimes in Stamford, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Darien, Rowayton, Fairfield, Trumbull, Westport, Wilton, Weston, Danbury, New Haven, Bethany, Woodbridge, Milford, Stratford, Bridgeport, and throughout the State of Connecticut.

We offer predictable flat fees in most criminal cases. Contact The Lebedevitch Law Firm today to discuss your situation and how we can help.