For many holiday shoppers, Back Friday officially kicks off the Christmas gift buying season. In fact, some stores even open on the evening of Thanksgiving, giving eager shoppers the opportunity to take advantage of major sales. Throughout the entire month of November, many stores will have sales. However, crowds, long lines and the fierce competition over who is going to snag the last coveted toy or electronic device can cause tempers to flare. When this happens, the situation can escalate quickly, and angry shoppers can resort to verbal insults and even physical violence.
If you engage in threatening or violent behavior while shopping on Black Friday and you have been charged with a crime, you are urged to contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. A lawyer who knows the ins and outs of criminal law can help protect your rights.
In 2019, approximately 115 million Americans participated in Black Friday shopping, which is more than 50 percent of this country’s adult population. Despite the growing number of people who prefer to do their holiday shopping online, millions continue to brave the crowds and the long lines to shop in person at brick-and-mortar stores.
There are many websites that collect data about Black Friday-related injuries and deaths reported in the news around the world. The actual figures are likely to be higher since many incidents go unreported, but these websites give a general idea of the nature of the problem and how quickly the shopping experience can become chaotic and even violent on Black Friday.
What Are the Most Common Types of Black Friday Crimes?
Black Friday does not always bring out the best in people. In fact, the promise of a great deal on a television or computer causes some shoppers to become greedy, aggressive, and even physically violent. Oftentimes, shoppers have no regard for the person who was waiting outside in the freezing cold to get a particular item if they can push past that person and grab the item first.
The following are examples of common crimes that are seen on Black Friday:
- Assault: If you threaten to injure another shopper by using violence or force, you may be charged with assault. Assault is often considered attempted battery.
- Battery: If you touch another shopper without their consent and the physical contact causes injuries or harm, you may be charged with battery.
- Theft: Oftentimes, people think that a crowded store full of frenzied shoppers is an easy place to steal items off the shelves without being spotted by security cameras or guards. However, if you steal merchandise worth less than $950, you could face misdemeanor charges that are punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. If the stolen items are worth more than $950, you could face felony charges that carry a prison sentence of up to three years and fines of up to $10,000.
- Brandishing a weapon: If you aim a gun or any other weapon at another person in a threatening manner while shopping in a store on Black Friday, you could be charged with felony aggravated assault.
What Are the Most Common Causes of Black Friday Shopping Incidents?
Overeager shoppers who have been anxiously waiting for the doors to open so that they can push their way past you and grab as many items as they can often cause in-store fights and arguments. The following are the top causes of injuries and fatalities associated with Black Friday shopping:
- Stampede of shoppers: One example of a crowd-related incident that became dangerous occurred at a shopping mall in Southern California where 500 gift cards were dropped from the ceiling into a crowd of roughly 2,000 shoppers. Ten shoppers, including an elderly woman, suffered injuries after being trampled by shoppers.
- Pepper spray: A shopper at a Walmart in Garfield, New Jersey was pepper sprayed and arrested after he allegedly attacked a police officer who was responding to an argument over a television.
- Shooting: A shopper was shot in the leg after he tried to grab a large screen television from a man who stole it from him at gunpoint.
- Car accidents: After shopping all night at an outlet mall, a motorist from California caused a drowsy driving car accident that caused two fatalities.
- Fights: Two female shoppers got into a fist fight at a Toys “R” Us store in California. The situation became deadly when their male companions got involved and shot each other.
- Stabbing: A dispute over a parking spot at a Walmart in Virginia led to a stabbing.
How Can I Avoid Criminal Charges on Black Friday?
In some cases, a momentary lapse in judgment can cause you to act irrationally. Other times, you may get caught up in a situation that escalates to some type of violent behavior, but you did not participate in a crime.
To avoid situations like this and potential criminal charges, keep the following tips in mind when shopping on Black Friday:
- Do not cover items with your coat. Simply draping your coat over a pile of merchandise may not seem problematic, but a security officer may see that and assume that you are trying to shoplift items. Either leave your coat in the car or make sure that it is at the bottom of the pile of merchandise that you are buying.
- Do not consolidate bags of merchandise while inside the store. If you have done a fair amount of shopping and accumulated numerous bags, you may want to consolidate your merchandise into fewer bags. However, it is highly recommended that you find a bench outside the store, or you can find another area in the mall where you can consolidate your bags. Doing this inside the store may cause security guards to become suspicious.
- Keep your receipts. If you are charged with shoplifting, providing a copy of the receipt will prove that you did not steal the item.
- Avoid altercations in stores. If another shopper acts in a way that is rude or aggressive, do not engage with that person or stoop to their level. It can be difficult to walk away or take the high road in these types of situations, particularly after a stressful shopping experience. However, if you engage with another shopper who is causing a scene, you could end up facing criminal charges, particularly if the situation becomes aggressive or violent.
- Avoid aggressive behavior behind the wheel. After the shopping is done, people get in their cars feeling exhausted, frustrated, and stressed out after the chaotic Black Friday shopping experience. This can increase the risk of drowsy driving, distracted driving, and aggressive driving car accidents.
Springfield Criminal Defense Lawyers at Kicklighter Law Represent Clients Facing Criminal Charges Related to Black Friday Shopping
If you have been charged with assault and battery, shoplifting, or any other crime while shopping on Black Friday, you are urged to contact our Springfield criminal defense lawyers at Kicklighter Law. Our dedicated legal team will thoroughly examine the details of your case and the charges that you are facing. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 912-754-6003 or contact us online. Located in Springfield, Georgia, we serve clients throughout Effingham County, Savannah, and the surrounding areas.