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Criminal Defense Lawyer Explains Why You Should Steer Clear From Self-Checkout Kiosks At Stores

Photo: frantic00, nampix / Shutterstock 
woman at self-checkout and lawyer

For many of us, self-checkout is a life-saver at the end of shopping trips. It allows us to bag our items exactly the way we want to, avoid long lines of shoppers with full carts, and spares us from having to engage in conversations with cashiers if we are tired or in a rush. 

However, one legal expert is advising shoppers to steer clear of self-checkout registers because using them can lead to false accusations, spending copious amounts of money to hire a lawyer, and even landing you in prison for up to a year. 

A lawyer revealed that there are actual risks to using self-checkout registers that you should consider over convenience.

Carrie Jernigan, a criminal defense attorney, explained in a TikTok video that more and more self-checkout registers are picking up on shoplifting that was unintentional or never happened. “There are currently three groups of people getting charged with shoplifting using self-checkout,” she said. 



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Jernigan explained that the first group of people are those who have the full intention of stealing. They go into the store with a specific plan including what they are stealing, and how they are going to conceal the theft. A common practice with self-checkout thieves is to scan a few items legitimately before using a concealed barcode that they place on their palm to mimic the purchase of a cheaper item than what gets bagged.

The second group of people, according to Jernigan, are those who unintentionally steal an item. At self-checkout counters, this usually happens when a shopper has their hands full and simply forgets to scan an item or fails to spot it in their shopping carts before leaving the store. 

The third group consists of people who Jernigan said are “truly innocent” and did not steal anything on purpose or accidentally. They are usually accused of shoplifting when asset protection is performing quality-control checks or inventory and they notice an item that comes up short. 

lawyer explains why you should steer clear from self-checkoutPhoto: Katecat / Canva Pro

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They will sift through hours of video footage and pin it on the last shopper they spot checking out with the item, and falsely accuse them of stealing. 

"Big-box businesses aren't going to spend their time and resources trying to figure out if you did it on purpose,” Jernigan revealed. “And because of who these big-box stores are, they usually have to present very little evidence to get an affidavit warrant signed.” 

According to Jernigan, these innocent customers could face charges that could land them up to a year in jail. Additionally, she claimed they would likely have to spend thousands of dollars hiring a lawyer to go through “grainy video footage” for proof. 

An attorney must be able to demonstrate valid evidence to the prosecutor that their client did not shoplift in order for charges to get dismissed. However, at that point, Jernigan claimed that “so much damage has already been done.” 

People proved Jernigan’s claims by sharing their own horror stories after using self-checkout. 

“My mom accidentally left a tiny $3 lemon oil in her cart after buying $300 in groceries. She was charged with theft and had to do community service," one TikTok user commented. "It took me 7 months and cost me $6,000 to clear my name after I was falsely accused and the evidence should have exonerated me immediately," another user wrote. "I forgot to scan an item once and now there's a photo of me in Walmart's system,” another revealed. 

lawyer explains why you should not use self-checkoutPhoto: AzmanJaka from Getty Images Signature / Canva Pro

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Some big-box stores have taken strong measures to ensure that customers do not steal by implementing newer and more advanced self-checkout systems. Unfortunately, these systems are only making matters worse for innocent shoppers.

Walmart has implemented anti-theft technology at self-checkouts to decrease the odds of theft, and innocent people being accused of shoplifting. 

The technology at self-checkout registers detects when an item is unscanned, and a light above the machine turns on. The machine then freezes and sends a text notification to nearby employees, who ensure that all items are scanned and paid for before a customer leaves the store. 

"As with other retailers, theft is always a challenge, and we're always looking for better ways to tackle this issue. This includes enhanced technology at our checkouts," Joe Pennington, a Walmart spokesperson, told Insider.

Walmart employees have also confirmed the news on their own social media accounts. “We’re able to see everything you’re purchasing, how much your total purchase is, and how much each item costs,” former Walmart employee, Athenia, shared in a TikTok video. “So I highly recommend not stealing from Walmart.”



While self-checkout registers may be more convenient for many shoppers, Jernigan’s warnings should have you thinking twice when you've got a full cart at the grocery store.

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Megan Quinn is a writer at YourTango who covers entertainment and news, self, love, and relationships.