Does a retail store have to have solid proof to impose a fine on someone as an accomplice in a shoplifting case?

UPDATED: Sep 18, 2011

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Does a retail store have to have solid proof to impose a fine on someone as an accomplice in a shoplifting case?

My minor daughter and her friend were caught shoplifting. My 21-year-old daughter was also shopping but she was not with the girls when they were shoplifting. She was completely unaware of what the 2 girls were doing. Security stopped the girls and took them to a room for questioning. My oldest daughter was stopped separately upon exiting (after she paid for her item). She was taken to the same room and questioned. She showed her receipt and said she had no idea what the girls had done. Yet she was charged as an accomplice and imposed a $300 fine. Is this legal without proof?

Asked on September 18, 2011 under Criminal Law, California


M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

No it is not and I really feel sorry for you being caught between the girls here.  It won't be an easy time of things.  May I ask: were they arrested?  You have not stated that they were or that the police were even called.  Because I think that the fine that you are talking about is known as a civil demand from the store itself, correct?  Do not pay it.  The store has no right to impose a fine for anything  They have a right to call the police and have them arrested.  Only the court can fine them if convicted and then they would probably impose restitution for the store which would be the amount of the item.  I am worried about the 21 year old because she is an adult and does not need petty theft hanging over her head when she was an innocent bystander.  So I would seek help from an attorney to scare the bejeezers out of the store with a nicely written letter.  Hopefully the minor is now sufficiently scared.  Good luck.

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