Can they trace me by my license plate if I stole?

A question was recently asked about whether or not store security (a.k.a. “Loss Prevention”) could track somebody if they ran out and got into their car, but were followed.  To make matters potentially worse, loss prevention wanted them to come back into the store.  From there, the details matter.

Can they track you with your license plate?

I hate to say it, but what is described – running away, but being identified through your license plates – does in fact happen often. The only thing is the “if”.

  • IF they did get your license plate (and IF they got it correctly);
  • IF they called the police
  • And IF the police investigate

Then you could face charges. I cannot answer anybody those “if” questions. The concern is the unknown. I’ll throw in a few more “ifs”. If the loss prevention person from the store reports any sort of physical struggle over the property, this could escalate into a robbery charge. If they think you entered the store with the intent to steal, this could turn into a burglary. The reason this matters is both robbery and burglary are felonies, making the police much more likely to investigate. They can also arrest based on probable cause, rather than getting a warrant or sending a letter.

I’m not trying to scare you – just relating the possibilities so you’re prepared. If you are contacted by anyone regarding this, you should NOT make any statements about this without an attorney. Even if you give them your side of the story (it was “only” shoplifting), you have admitted that you’re the person involved and may give them the evidence they need to prosecute you. Keep your mouth shut. Politely, but firmly, ask to speak to a lawyer BEFORE you say anything. Keep repeating that. If the police do show up at your house to chat, you’re not in custody, so they aren’t required to give you your Miranda rights. It doesn’t mean you can’t exercise them though.

You may want to consult with an attorney face to face to discuss the facts further in a confidential setting to assess things. If this is an Orange County case, give me a call so we can set up a time to talk.

Joe Dane


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