I’m a lawyer; here are the next steps to take if you accidentally steal something from the self-checkout at Walmart or Target.


Legal professionals have offered guidance on what to do if you are accused of accidentally shoplifting from a major retailer’s self-checkout.

Self-checkout has become more popular as retailers try to reduce expenses and simplify the shopping process.


Accidents can still occur, though, and customers who are unfamiliar with the checkout procedure may unintentionally leave without scanning an item.

That might result in a shoplifting charge, but a lawyer has provided advice on what to do if you ever find yourself in a situation like that.

It happens more often than you think.

Lesleigh Nurse was detained in Alabama in November 2016 on suspicion of stealing 11 items from a nearby Walmart, including Christmas lights, bread, and cereal, as The Sun previously reported.

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She used a self-checkout device inside the Semmes store, but needed assistance when the barcode scanner froze.

Walmart executives allegedly threatened to file charges against her unless she paid back $200, which is more than the sum she was falsely accused of stealing.

When she told WKRG at the time that “this was an accident, this wasn’t on purpose,” the nurse believed that the case would be resolved.

If you find yourself in a situation like this, hopefully it can be resolved right away.

If not, hiring a lawyer who specializes in theft or shoplifting will probably help ensure your case is handled in a way where you face the fewest number of charges, according to Louisiana-based attorney Carl Barkemeyer.

He cautions that prison time for such an incident is not a guarantee and depends entirely on the circumstances.

Counselor and court-ordered treatment provider Sandra Barger told Tucson, Arizona-based station KGUN that she has noticed a pattern.

She claimed to have observed a number of participants in the court diversion program who weren’t her usual petty theft clients.

“The story is the same. I’m standing there scanning, and I’ve got my kids with me. One of my clients brought his children along, according to Barger.

She continued, “And it was just a single, straightforward thing that he missed, which can happen, you know, anyone can do that.

“I have another client who is a business owner who spent over $2,000 on items, but he missed one item and received a citation.”

According to Barger, many of the clients she has been able to clear up were detained at an Arizona Walmart on La Cholla.

Between January 2021 and April 11, 2022, there were 62 citations and releases at that Walmart, the Pima County Sheriff Deputies told KGUN.

According to Barkemeyer, if you shoplift for the first time, you could be charged with either of two offenses:


Less severe penalties and shorter sentences will apply to misdemeanor offenses. The quantity taken is what counts.

You will receive a citation if you are arrested and later charged with a misdemeanor. The prosecution might also file a complaint against you.

Usually, a phrase or short sentence is involved. To present the facts of your case in the best light for an error made, Berkemeyer advised making sure you retain a defense attorney before your court date.


Felony charges carry harsher penalties and typically involve larger quantities of stolen goods.

Whatever the case, there will be a sentencing component to both charges.

Punishment for first-time offenders

A $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail are possible penalties for first-time shoplifters.

More serious grand larceny charges may be applicable if the theft involves more money than $3,000 in value.

According to Berkemeyer, the charges may be dropped or you may be found not guilty if you are successful in having them expunged.

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He advised filling out an application as soon as the charge has been dropped as soon as this is finished.

The Sun previously covered a lawyer named Carrie Jernigan who posted on TikTok a warning against using the self-checkout feature at big box stores like Walmart and Target as well as some advice in case you do need to use it.


Micheal Kurt

I earned a bachelor's degree in exercise and sport science from Oregon State University. He is an avid sports lover who enjoys tennis, football, and a variety of other activities. He is from Tucson, Arizona, and is a huge Cardinals supporter.

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