What are some tips for shoplifting

Caught shoplifting? We help!

Perhaps you know the queasy feeling when you are spoken to when you leave the department store and the shop detective asks you to follow him into his office. Shoplifting is one of the most common crimes in Germany. Accordingly, shoplifting is also consistently pursued by department stores and the police. We will tell you what penalties to expect and how we can successfully defend you.

Summons for shoplifting

If you've been caught shoplifting, you will often receive a hearing or summons from the police some time later. You will either be asked to appear for an interview or to provide written information about the theft. Under no circumstances should you act rashly or panic. The biggest mistake you can make now is to immediately admit the shoplifting to the police. This also applies if you have already signed the protocol written by the shop detective. Rather, read this post through to the end. Then you know how to act.

Charge or penalty warrant for shoplifting

If you already have an indictment or criminal warrant for shoplifting, you don't need to read our little guide to the end. Instead, you should pick up the phone directly and contact us at ☎ (0721) 976 646 80. Because now the child has already fallen into the well and action must be taken as quickly as possible in order to be able to limit the damage to some extent. In the case of a penalty order in particular, speed is of the essence, as there is only two weeks to appeal against the penalty order.

The tricks of the shop detectives

Because of their experience, shop detectives know most of the shoplifter's tricks. Their hit rates are correspondingly high. But catching the shoplifter is only part of their job. The other part consists of coaxing a signed confession from the shoplifter on site. The detective often suggests to the shoplifter that he will not report to the police if the shoplifter admits the theft on the spot and signs the theft protocol. From our practice as criminal defense lawyers, we know a large number of cases in which the shop detective even urged the thief to admit to previous thefts for which the detective actually had no evidence at all. The shoplifter has a guilty conscience and of course wants to prevent a criminal complaint. So he admits the theft, signs the protocol and hopes that he got off lightly again. But then he falls from the clouds because the detective has filed a criminal complaint against his promise. Unfortunately, there is little that can be done about this form of “deception”. A defense attorney will give you comprehensive advice on the options available.

These penalties are threatened with shoplifting

The penalty for shoplifting is based on Section 242 of the Criminal Code and ranges from a fine to five years in prison. While a first-time offender does not usually have to expect a prison sentence, repeat offenders in particular face the imposition of a suspended sentence and, in the worst case, a prison sentence.

Serious cases of shoplifting

If the stolen goods were specially secured against removal or if the perpetrator broke into the shop, this is a particularly serious case of theft. A fine is no longer possible here. There is a risk of imprisonment ranging from at least three months to ten years in prison. If the perpetrator has a weapon or a dangerous tool with him, the sentence is at least six months in prison. However, those who do not have a criminal record can hope that the sentence will be suspended.

Predatory theft

Predatory theft is one of the most serious forms of theft. Such is the case if the perpetrator of a shoplifting is caught by a department store detective, for example, and then defends himself with violence or threatens him in order to be able to flee with the stolen goods. Here the sentence is at least one year in prison. If the shoplifter threatened the detectives with a weapon, for example, the minimum penalty is a proud five (!) Years.

De minimis limit for shoplifting

Often you read something on the Internet about a de minimis limit that is supposed to play a role in a shoplifting. Indeed, there is what is known as an inferior limit. This limit is not expressly regulated by law and is around 50.00 euros. However, the theft of goods that are worth less than 50.00 euros does not mean that you cannot be punished for shoplifting. In the case of the theft of low-value items, it is only necessary for the shop owner (possibly represented by the shop detective) to file a formal criminal complaint. In the vast majority of cases, however, this is exactly how it is done. In most cases, the de minimis limit will not help you avoid a penalty.

Burden of proof in shoplifting

As in any other criminal proceeding, the court has to prove to you that you actually committed the shoplifting. The principle "in dubio pro reo - in case of doubt for the accused" applies. The burden of proof is therefore clearly on the part of the court. However, this should not hide the fact that the courts are quick to see shoplifting as proven. To prove the theft, the court can, for example, rely on video recordings and the testimony of the shop detective. An experienced criminal defense attorney will carefully examine this evidence. Because often there are errors in the individual evidence or contradictions in the testimony of the shop detective.

When is there a theft at all?

Shoplifting always occurs when you take goods without wanting to pay for them. The classic case is plugging in goods and leaving the store immediately. However, shoplifting does not necessarily mean that you have already left the checkout area. It can be enough if you hide the goods in your handbag or in your clothes while you are still in the shop. The goods were brought into a so-called custody enclave, because you have brought the goods so far into your very personal sphere that the theft has already been fulfilled. The only decisive factor is whether the goods have been removed from the custody of the shopkeeper. So it doesn't really matter if you leave the store.

When the house is searched

If you are caught red-handed and the shop detective has called the police, you will usually be searched briefly and the stolen goods seized or returned to the shopkeeper. Sometimes your car will also be searched if you drove your car to the department store and the officers know this. However, if you are suspected of having committed theft on a large scale, your house may also be searched. The police expect to find further evidence such as stolen goods or tools. However, a house search is a significant encroachment on your basic rights. Accordingly, the police must also comply with the relevant formalities. If the police carried out a house search because of shoplifting, our defense lawyers will check for you whether the search was lawful or whether there is perhaps a ban on the use of evidence.

Catch bonus for shoplifting

Some department stores require the shoplifter to pay a catch premium. The case law considers such a catch premium to be permissible in principle, provided it does not exceed a certain amount and the premium is actually paid out to the shop detectives. From a legal point of view, it is a kind of compensation. The case law considers a catch premium of up to 50.00 euros to be appropriate. However, the department store cannot demand any amount of the catch premium from you. You should contact a lawyer in particular if the required catch premium is well over 50.00 euros.

House ban for shoplifting

If you have been caught stealing by the shop detective, you will usually also be banned from entering the house. The shop detectives are usually authorized to do this by the shop owner. In most cases, the house ban is imposed on all branches of the chain of stores throughout Germany. Often it is also limited to one year. You should adhere to this house ban in your own interest. Because a violation of an effective house ban may constitute trespassing and thus another criminal offense. Therefore, in the future, simply avoid business.

Do I really need a lawyer?

In principle, you can defend yourself in court in the event of shoplifting. You are not required to hire a lawyer. However, you should then also be familiar with criminal law and criminal procedure law. Even a broken arm may heal on its own without treatment by a doctor. But would you really want to take the risks involved? In the case of simple shoplifting in particular, the actual penalty is often not the main problem. In the event of a conviction, there is a risk of an entry in the certificate of good conduct with all its consequences. You can find more about these episodes in the following bullet points.

Previous conviction and entry in the certificate of good conduct

If you have been given a fine, suspended or imprisonment sentence for shoplifting, this means that you have a criminal record. It doesn't matter how high or low the penalty is. This criminal record is entered in the so-called federal central register. The shoplifting also leads to an entry in the police clearance certificate. The only exception is if you have only been sentenced to a fine of a maximum of 90 daily rates and no other previous conviction has yet been entered in the register. An entry in the certificate of good conduct can unfortunately still cause you trouble in your professional life years after the crime. Avoiding a previous conviction is therefore a top priority in the shoplifting defense.

Will my employer be informed?

In principle, your employer will not be informed about the ongoing investigation. There are a few exceptions to this, however. For example, if you are a civil servant, soldier, doctor, educator, teacher, architect or engineer by profession, there may be an obligation for the public prosecutor to inform the competent authority about a conviction. In individual cases, it can be communicated that an investigation is pending. Even if you do not work in any of these professions, you should remember that court hearings in Germany are generally public and many courts publish the full name of the accused in the schedule of meetings in front of the hall. Such a discovery can, however, be prevented if there is no trial in the first place. We are committed to this for you.

Self-employed people face far-reaching consequences

Self-employed people can be particularly hard hit by a shoplifting conviction. For you, paying a possible fine is usually the lesser evil. It is worse if you are denied the reliability required to carry out your trade because of the conviction and you are threatened with a trade ban or the revocation of your business license. This is particularly the case if particular integrity is required for the exercise of your trade. This is the case, for example, with security services, brokers, financial advisors or insurance brokers. Here you should play it safe and not leave it to chance or the pure whim of the public prosecutor whether the proceedings against you will be closed or not.

Legal aid and compulsory defense

Unfortunately, there is no legal aid in criminal proceedings. Under special conditions there is the possibility of a compulsory defense. However, the prerequisites for a compulsory defense in the case of simple shoplifting are usually not met. In addition, a public defender is only very rarely appointed by the courts as part of the police investigation, but only for the court hearing. The primary goal of a criminal defense attorney, however, is to achieve a termination of the proceedings while the preliminary investigation is still in progress and thus avoid a trial. This means that you basically have to bear the costs yourself.

Legal protection insurance for shoplifting

You may be thinking to yourself: “I have legal protection insurance!”. But here too, a look at the insurance conditions will probably disappoint you. Most legal protection insurances do not provide insurance cover for crimes that can only be committed willfully. Shoplifting is one such crime that can only be committed willfully. However, you shouldn't be too sorry about this. Because you really want to have to reveal all the details to your insurance company that you have been caught in a theft. Even the cover request will be on file with many insurance companies for years.

What does it cost if I hire a lawyer?

If you hire a criminal defense attorney for shoplifting, you naturally want to know what the costs will be. If one of our defense attorneys succeeds in setting the proceedings during the preliminary investigation, the costs for our work are usually around 1,200 euros. If a court hearing cannot be avoided, the costs for a main hearing day are around 1,600 euros. However, these figures are only approximate estimates. These can vary in individual cases. We would be happy to explain to you in a personal meeting what costs you should expect in your specific case. Think of the cost of hiring a criminal defense attorney as an investment in your future. Because a competent and committed defense can often ensure that you get off lightly again and that no obstacles are put in your way that you could stumble over in a few years.

How we can help you

The defense of shoplifting is part of the everyday business of a criminal defense attorney. We will first inform the police that from now on we will represent you in the investigation and that further communication will only take place with us. We will then take care of the next steps and request access to the files. As soon as we have the file, we will discuss how to proceed. We also check whether the theft can be proven to you at all. But even if the evidence is unequivocal, a committed commitment can often prevent a conviction. As a rule, we will lobby the public prosecutor's office to ensure that the shoplifting proceedings against you are closed. If they have not yet appeared under criminal law, the chances of this are usually very good. If necessary, we also suggest hiring against payment of a monetary requirement. Hiring has the advantage that the procedure is completed and there is no entry in the certificate of good conduct.


Just & Partner Kriegsstrasse 212 76135 Karlsruhe ☎ (0721) 976 646 80