FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida. In an effort to reduce their losses from shoplifting, some major retailers have been using private companies to educate thieves about the harms of stealing. While retailers claim that the education companies keep shoplifters out of jail, prevent them from facing the consequences of a misdemeanor charge, and educate them about the harm they are doing to the community, advocates for those accused have called the education programs exploitative.


How does the process work? According to Quartz, if a person is caught stealing, some major retailers may show the accused a video letting them know that they can avoid facing the police if they agree to a costly educational program. In some cases, the program costs hundreds of dollars. Individuals have 48 hours to make a decision in order to avoid having the police or law enforcement getting involved. According to one report, as many as 90% of people who faced the choice, decided to go with the education program instead of facing the criminal justice system.

However, individuals may not understand how some retailers might be violating their rights. For example, when individuals are caught stealing by retail stores, they are sometimes detained. The company may show them a video presenting them with the option to undergo the education program. However, individuals may not know that this constitutes false imprisonment. In fact, the education program is no longer permitted to force individuals accused of stealing to watch the introductory video.

While the idea of facing the police can be frightening, the truth is that many individuals can avoid some of the serious consequences that go along with the charge by speaking to a qualified criminal defense attorney. The Law Office of Michael D. Weinstein, P.A. are criminal defense lawyers in Fort Lauderdale, Florida who can review the details of your case, determine the evidence against you, and use the fullest protection provided under the law to your benefit.

Individuals who agree to undergo the private diversion program may not be aware that they are giving up certain rights and protections under the law. For example, under the law you are innocent until proven guilty. In some cases, evidence is insufficient and charges can be dropped. Stores sometimes make errors when accusing people of shoplifting. In other cases, your local criminal justice system may have diversion programs that can help you avoid the most damaging charges to your record and reputation.

However, that isn’t to say that there aren’t successful diversion programs out there—there are. However, critics of private programs claim that they are not effective because they are not face-to-face. The for-profit model of some of these programs has also raised concerns. The Marshall Project also reported on cases where individuals could not pay the private companies’ high fees. Even after paying initial deposits on the course, they still faced police.

At the end of the day, if you are facing criminal charges, it is probably best to understand your rights before you make any decision. Some diversion programs can be beneficial. However, it is important to know what you are getting into and whether your rights are protected should you move forward. This is why it is wise to speak to a criminal defense lawyer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, like the Law Office of Michael D. Weinstein, P.A.