Clarity Law

Specialist Criminal Law Firm Queensland
Thursday, 07 December 2023 19:43

What to do if wrongfully accused of shoplifting

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Wrongfully accused of shoplifting

Charged with shoplifting when innocent? If you have been wrongly accused or charged with shoplifting what should you do to protect your rights?


What actually is shoplifting?

There are two different charges under Queensland law for shoplifting, that is “shoplifting’ if the alleged theft involved good less than $150 or ‘stealing’ where the goods are alleged to have cost more than $150.


What does the law say?

The Regulatory Offences Act defines shoplifting as follows;


(1) Any person who, with respect to goods in a shop of a value of $150 or less—

(a) consumes them without the consent, express or implied, of the person in lawful possession of them; or

(b) deliberately alters, removes, defaces or otherwise renders indistinguishable a price shown on them, without the consent, express or implied, of the person in lawful possession of them; or

(c) whether or not the property in the goods has passed to the person, takes them away without discharging, or attempting honestly, or making proper arrangements, to discharge his or her lawful indebtedness therefor;

is guilty of a regulatory offence and, subject to section 9, is liable to a fine of 6 penalty units.

(1A) Without limiting subsection (1) (b) , a price may be shown on goods by a bar code or a similar device.

(2) It is a defence to a charge of an offence defined in subsection (1) (c) to prove the taking away of the goods was not dishonest.


What are the defences to shoplifting?

The main defence would be that you did not take the goods dishonestly. That is, you had an intention and ability to pay for the goods but something has occurred and you have left the premises without paying for the goods but importantly did not do so dishonestly.

For example you may have intended to purchase the store goods but left the store without paying for them because;

  1. You thought you scanned the goods at the self checkout but actually didn’t
  2. The goods were caught up with other goods and you did not notice
  3. You genuinely forgot to pay for some goods

The key thing is that the non payment of the taken goods must not be dishonest.


If I had a defence why did the police charge me?

The problem is that dishonestly taking goods and honestly forgetting to pay for goods look basically the same. You have entered a store and then left without paying for some or all of the goods. This is the fundamental difficulty with shoplifting its hard to distinguish between genuine mistake and actual theft.

Generally we have found that the police would do the following when determining if someone should be charged with shoplifting;

  • Talk to any store staff or detectives to see what they say occurred
  • Look to any store footage
  • Look at what goods were allegedly stolen
  • Look at how the goods taken without paying were removed from the store
  • Check the criminal history of the accused


I didn’t shoplift, what should I do?

Understanding your rights is fundamental when facing false accusations. You have the right to:

  • Remain silent: You are not obligated to answer questions without legal representation present.
  • Request to speak to a lawyer: Invoke your right to a lawyer immediately, and don't proceed with any questioning until one is present.

It is generally ok to return the goods you didn’t pay for but without legal advice do not give a statement to the police or store employees.

If you are arrested then the first step is to talk to a experienced lawyer who can give you advice and outline how the approach the matter before the courts.

You should also make a written summary of everything people said to you including store members and police. Have a look can you see cameras in the store? Or any witnesses that saw what occurred.


What would a lawyer do if I’m not guilty of shoplifting?

First the lawyer would talk you through your different options and best strategies so you understand the process.

Then they would probably;

  1. Request from the prosecutor a copy of their court brief (called the QP9)
  2. Request any footage from the prosecutor
  3. Look at the allegations in the QP9
  4. Take your statement
  5. Determine the strength of the police case
  6. Look to do case conferencing.

Case conferencing is the process of trying to get the prosecutor to drop the charges without the charge needing to go to a trial. This would be the absolute best outcome as the charge would go away and no trial would need to occur.

Learn more about case conferencing.

If the case conferencing did not result in the charge being withdrawn then you would have to make one of two choices, either plead guilty to the charge or plead not guilty and have a Magistrate decide if you are guilty nor not.


How do I get more information or engage you to act for me? 

If you want to engage us or just need further free information or advice then you can either;

  1. Use our contact form and we will contact you by email or phone at a time that suits you

  2. Call us on 1300 952 255 seven days a week, 7am to 7pm

  3. Click here to select a time for us to have a free 15 minute telephone conference with you

  4. Email the firms founder on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

  5. Send us a message on Facebook Messenger

  6. Click the help button at the bottom right and leave us a message

We are a no pressure law firm, we are happy to provide free initial information to assist you. If you want to engage us then great, we will give you a fixed price for our services so you will know with certainty what we will cost. All the money goes into a trust account monitored by the Queensland Law Society and cannot be taken out without your permission or until we are legally allowed to.

If you don’t engage us that fine too, at least you will have more information on the charge and its consequences.

Also check out our main shoplifting page for more information.

Read 158 times Last modified on Tuesday, 12 December 2023 18:00
Steven Brough

Steven Brough is a criminal defence lawyer and founder of Clarity Law with over 22 years experience he has appeared in almost every court in Queensland representing clients charged with criminal offences and getting them the best outcome possible.