Panel OKs creating Alabama shoplifting law; Allows arrests inside stores

A Senate committee has approved legislation that would allow the police to arrest suspected shoplifters inside a store, rather than having to wait until the suspect steps outside the building without purchasing merchandise.

SB120 by Sen. Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville, would create a separate crime of shoplifting in Alabama. Currently, shoplifting is prosecuted under the state’s theft law. The punishments, fines and felony threshold for shoplifting would remain the same as they are under the current theft statute.

The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee approved the bill after a brief discussion, sending it to the full Senate for consideration.

Under the legislation, anyone, acting alone or with another person, would be subject to a charge of shoplifting if their intent was to knowingly take the merchandise without paying for it or to deprive the merchant of all or part of the merchandise’s value. Knowing intent includes doing any of the following:

  • Taking possession, or attempting to take possession, of retail merchandise by concealing it in any way.
  • Altering, transferring or removing the label, price tag or any other markings that aid in determining the value of retail merchandise and purchasing, or attempting to purchase, the merchandise at less than its value.
  • Transferring merchandise from one container to another with the intent to purchase the merchandise at less than its value.
  • Causing the cash register or other sales recording device to reflect less than the value of the merchandise.
  • Failing to scan the barcode and pay for merchandise at a self-checkout register.
  • Altering, disabling or removing any security or alarm device attached to or holding the merchandise prior to its purchase.

Chambliss said several recent instances in his district motivated him to propose a separate crime of shoplifting. In those instances, police waiting outside for a shoplifting suspect became involved in a high-speed chase to apprehend the suspect, because the suspect fled in a vehicle before police could arrest them. “Under the current theft statute, you have to physically leave the building before you can be arrested,” Chambliss said. His legislation makes it possible for law enforcement alerted to a possible shoplifter by the management of a retail store to make the arrest inside the store.

This article is part of the Alabama Retail Report, a communication for Alabama Retail Association members. Not a member? Join us!

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Originally posted at 4 p.m. April 16