If you’ve been falsely accused of shoplifting, your lawyer should immediately consider preserving shoplifting surveillance video.
You’d think that retailers would want to preserve evidence of your alleged crime forever. Most don’t. Why not? Probably because they’re more concerned about not wanting to preserve their employees’ false arrests, aggression, invasions of privacy, and other misdeeds, any longer than they deem necessary.
Retailers typically recycle surveillance video on a regular basis. Could be every few months, every few weeks, or even more frequently. The stated reason for doing so is the expense and storage space of preserving massive amounts of video. (This argument is much less persuasive nowadays, when surveillance video is saved on computer hard drives rather than VHS cassettes.) You should assume that the relevant video will be recycled if you don’t preserve it immediately.
If you’re innocent, surveillance video is evidence that is potentially favorable to you. Don’t delay trying to preserve it.
If your lawyer determines that the video might be helpful to your case, your lawyer should immediately subpoeana the retailer, demanding that all relevant surveillance video be produced in court. If this doesn’t happen fast enough, the retailer might truthfully claim that the relevant evidence no longer exists.
If the video exists, it could corroborate your testimony and prove that the loss-prevention officer’s description of your actions is an outright lie. If security officers used excessive force to arrest you, their actions might be depicted on the videotape as well.
If you’re innocent of shoplifting, the surveillance video can help you win your criminal case. If you sue the store for false arrest or assault, the surveillance video could also help you win your civil case.
If you’re innocent, you should consider preserving the surveillance video.
Of course, if you’re guilty, preserving shoplifting surveillance video is probably the last thing you should want to do.
Bruce Yerman is a New York City criminal defense attorney. If you'd like to discuss shoplifting charges, contact Bruce for a free consultation: