These days most stores have self-checkout lines that allegedly make getting out of a store go faster, but one lawyer is warning folks against using them, suggesting that it opens people up to being accused of a crime they didn’t commit.
One criminal defense attorney Carrie Jernigan, who happens to be an influencer with over 1.7 million followers on TikTok, recently shared the reason folks need to be safe and avoid self-checkout. She says it gives stores the chance to use security footage to accuse customers of stealing.
“As a criminal defense attorney, I advise most people to steer clear of self-checkout,” she shared in a video, noting she sees “three groups” of people who get charged with stealing thanks to self-checkout.
The first are those who go to the machines “with the intent to steal” and then there are people who get busted for “theft-by-mistake,” who are people she believes “just forgot to scan an item.”
While it may be an innocent mistake, she says those people may get charged “because … the big-box stores aren’t going to spend their time and resources trying to figure out if you did it on purpose.”
“Because of who these big box stores are, they usually have to present very little evidence to get an affidavit or warrant signed,” Jernigan claims. “The charges that could land you up to a year in jail get filed, and then you are fighting for your life trying to determine what day you were at Walmart, what all you bought. You have to spend thousands of dollars hiring a lawyer and we have to go through grainy video footage to try to determine what all you bought that day.”
These types of cases, Jernigan said, can be lengthy and difficult to prove innocence, especially if someone accused had paid with cash, or doesn’t have a receipt and can’t prove that they paid that amount, or if the price they paid is correct. She said that once an attorney can prove their client has not stolen anything, the charges are often dropped, but “so much damage” has already been done by that point.
In a follow-up video, she advised viewers to only use self-checkout for small purchases, always pay with a card in case there needs to be a record of the purchase, keep receipts and be slow and intentional when scanning items.
Commenters on the videos shared experiences of loved ones or even themselves being charged for shoplifting while using self-checkout, regardless of whether it happened or not.
“My mom accidentally left a tiny $3 lemon oil in her cart after buying $300 in groceries,” one commenter wrote. “She was charged with theft and had to do community service.”
“Took me seven months and cost me $6,000 to clear my name after I was falsely accused and the evidence should have exonerated me immediately,” another commenter wrote.