Self-checkout & Increased Incidence of Theft


Many avoid the self-checkout lanes at stores claiming that they don’t work there. We’ve all seen the memes and heard the complaints surrounding scanning one’s items. Until they’re listed on the payroll, they’re not doing it. Some even choose much longer lines to avoid self-checkout. They may be onto something though! Recently Montgomery County has experienced increased arrests for theft increase arising from the self-checkout lane. Why is this happening and what can you do?


Big Box stores like Wal-Mart, Target, and Kroger consider theft a serious offense. In 2019, FaceFirst, a company specializing in facial recognition technology, conducted a study that found theft troubles retail chains and grocery stores as their number one problem in business. In 2021, the National Retail Federation concluded that retail shrinkage cost retailers 94.5 billion in losses. As such, superstores utilize Loss Prevention teams, facial recognition technology, and other tools to cut down on shrinkage. In addition to traditional methods of tracking a shopper through cameras or following them in the stores, retailers have cracked down on “skip scanners” or self-checkout theft.


Arkansan lawyer Carrie Jernigan, who has amassed quite a large Tik Tok following, has categorized those who have been charged with theft during the use of self-checkout as three types of people:

  1. Those who intentionally steal – “skip scanners”;
  2. Those who simply make a mistake; and
  3. Those who are completely innocent.


Unfortunately, as a result of the 94.5 billion dollars in losses, Big Box stores do not care which category you fall into. They will oftentimes insist on prosecuting those charged with theft to the fullest extent of the law. In fact, Alabaman woman Lesleigh Nurse received 2.1 million dollars in damages after suing Wal-Mart for false accusations of “skip scanning” theft. Many times, even to their detriment, they will not listen to pleas or explanations when those accused try to pay for the item at the time or confront the retailers about faulty equipment.  Faulty equipment does exist. Genuinely some thought they scanned the item and it did not scan. Superstores aren’t inclined to admit this. Keep in mind that Loss Prevention typically looks for statements and facts to bolster their accusations of theft. They’re most frequently not looking to help or listen to your side. You have a Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. This incident is a good opportunity to exercise it.


Section 31.03 of the Texas Penal Code states, “A person commits an offense if he unlawfully appropriates property with intent to deprive the owner of property.” So, while the retailer may not care if the item simply didn’t get scanned or that it was unintentionally stolen, that fact can be crucial in the defense of theft. Mistakenly taken items can include those you missed or those that simply didn’t scan. This responsibility to prove that one knowingly and intentionally stole the item falls on the prosecution, but a seasoned, capable defense attorney can help speed the process along.

While the Loss Prevention team or retailer may not listen to you if you find yourself in this situation, M. Neufeld Law always stands by as your advocate. Contact our office to discuss your pending theft charge and your options moving forward.

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