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Walmart Self-Checkout Shoplifting

Walmart Self-Checkout Shoplifting

Many retailers are phasing out human cashiers in favor of self-checkout systems. The stores have figured out that buying a self-checkout system can be less expensive than paying hourly wages for an employee. Walmart is one of the pioneers of this trend. We especially see cases from the Walmart in Lexington, Redbank, West Columbia, Batesburg, and Harbison. 

All Lexington County and Columbia area Walmarts now have self-checkout lanes. These are frequently the only lanes without huge lines, making them a tempting option.

One problem with self-checkout though is the risk of being accused of theft if you fail to properly ring up all of your items. Without a cashier or another employee to help it can be easy to overlook something, especially when you are busy with ringing, bagging, and trying to load everything.

We’re seeing a regular stream of clients who have been charged with shoplifting after trying to use the self-checkout lanes at Walmart. Typically what happens is someone is approached by store security shortly after completing their transaction. They may point out that only some of the items were scanned. At this point even if it was an honest mistake you can be charged with shoplifting.

A shoplifting charge is always a criminal offense. It doesn’t matter if you were immediately taken to jail or not. Even if you were only given a ticket you are still facing a possible jail sentence of up to 30 days when your case gets to court, plus having a potentially lifetime criminal conviction put on your record.

Under South Carolina law you can be charged with shoplifting for failing to ring-up all of your purchases. However there is a legal requirement that you must specifically intend on stealing. For example, here are some examples of situations where someone could be at risk of a charge, but isn’t guilty:

A mother with two children uses the self-checkout lane. She laid a greeting card flat in the buggy but then sat her purse on top. After going through the checkout she rang up all of her groceries and items, but forgot the card because it was under her purse. Even though she didn’t ring it up, and tried to leave with the card, this isn’t shoplifting since she didn’t intend on stealing.

A man buys some clothes and a week’s worth of groceries. He scans everything, or so he thought. For whatever reason a case of beer in his shopping cart didn’t ring up, even though he aimed the hand-held scanner and heard a “beep”. After being stopped by security the man doesn’t know if the equipment malfunctioned, or perhaps he heard a beep from the next terminal and though it was his. Either way, he thought he rang up the beer and didn’t mean to take it without payment.

If you’ve been charged with shoplifting after using a Walmart of any other self-checkout lane, you have important legal rights that can help you avoid a false or unfair criminal conviction. You should also know that the store security is frequently in area courts, and is known by area judges, prosecutors, and police officers.  They are there all the time.

There are however numerous legal strategies that can help you. These can include getting copies of security footage from Walmart before you go to court, or other materials to help build a defense. We offer free consultations in our office for anyone charged with a Walmart or other self-checkout shoplifting. Even if you think the evidence is clear that you are guilty, there still can be options to help you avoid a conviction or jail sentence. Contact us for a free consultation. 


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