$25NT bag of chips AND A MISUNDERSTANDING

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$25NT bag of chips AND A MISUNDERSTANDING

Postby Augieman » 03 Dec 2011, 20:55

My name is Richard and I am a foreigner from Canada living in Taipei. Two weeks I was accused of stealing a small 25NT$ bag of chips from a 7-11 store. Now I never left the store when I ate the chips I simply forgot to pay. I know this sounds ridiculous but it is true. Now the owner wants to go to court on the matter and I am getting a little nervous because as a foreigner I am not sure what will happen to me. The other day I received a letter from immigration saying that there is someone investigating my case right now and I if I am found guilty then I will have to pay a fine and I think my travel ban will be taken away but this matter will remain on my record. If this is the case how long will it remain on my record? . This letter was written in Chinese so I had to get my friend to translate it for me. One of the police involved told me not to worry because it is a small uncomplicated case. Could I still get deported? . I did spend one night in the district office and I already made an appearance at the prosecutor's office. I really don't want to go to court over this issue. This is my first offense. I also have a travel ban until this case is closed. The police officer involved went back two days later to talk with the store owner saying that I was willing to appologize but she was still very angry and wouldn't accept it. If anyone has had a similar situation, I would like to hear from you, thanks

Let me explain to you what happened. I was in the 7-11store on Roosevelt on Sunday Nov. 20, 2011 at around 5:00pm. According to the store owner I took the chips off the shelf at 5:15. However I don't know how he knows this because he was in front serving customers and I was in the back. When I took the chips off the shelf I noticed ther was a long line-up so I decided I would sit down at one of the tables in the back until the line-up got smaller. So I sat down at one of the tables in the back and proceeded to check my phone messages and text messages. In the meantime I proceeded to eat the chips. I also remember dozing off a few times while I was reading my messages. Approximately 1 half hour later or so, maybe it was 45 min. later, I checked the time on my phone and I rememer being a little surprised at how long I was sitting there and I remember thinking that I had better go home because I had homework to do. So I grabbed my things and proceeded to leave completely forgetting that I didn't pay for the chips. I deposited the empty chip bag in the garbage and proceeded to go out the door. But I don't remember leaving the store when the store clerk stopped me and told me to wait and that was when he called the police. So then 6 or 7 police officers came and handcuffed put me in the police car. I then spent the next 4 hours in the police station in handcuffs, spent the night in the disrict office in handcuffs and Monday I saw the prosecutor. Then I was allowed to go.
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Re: $25NT bag of chips AND A MISUNDERSTANDING

Postby Mucha Man » 03 Dec 2011, 21:01

I don't have any advice but good luck to you. The story sounds completely plausible. One thing though, if you hadn't left the store then you didn't steal anything.

Of course, I wouldn't have waited for the police. Once I realized what they wanted I would have paid and left.

Anyway, good luck.
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Re: $25NT bag of chips AND A MISUNDERSTANDING

Postby archylgp » 03 Dec 2011, 21:35

Muzha man is right: you didn't steal anything, but common sense doesn't apply here and the laws generally work against foreigners, anyways: the police might have taken you in even if you paid after you found out what was going on. It's pretty obvious the owner wants to take you to court; it would have been so easy for him/her to just ask you to pay for the chips assuming you forgot. Actually, that would have been the normal thing to do, especially since you didn't leave the store.
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Re: $25NT bag of chips AND A MISUNDERSTANDING

Postby tomthorne » 03 Dec 2011, 21:40

You need to talk to the 7-11 store owner. This should be easily sortable with a little foreign charm and a lot of piesays.

Good luck!
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Re: $25NT bag of chips AND A MISUNDERSTANDING

Postby Kea » 03 Dec 2011, 21:45

assuming all is as you wrote, that's appalling. Good luck, it's silly going to court over such a small incident, an accident, that should have been tolerated and understood by the owner with your apology and payment.

Wouldn't you be able to get video camera / CCTV evidence showing you sitting there/or being in the shop so long? That would back up your story. I hope you get other helpful suggestions.
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Re: $25NT bag of chips AND A MISUNDERSTANDING

Postby Mucha Man » 03 Dec 2011, 21:48

Maybe 7-Eleven owners are finally getting fed up that we keep calling them 7-11.
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Re: $25NT bag of chips AND A MISUNDERSTANDING

Postby Gryphon » 03 Dec 2011, 21:52

Richard, you make it sound like you did nothing wrong. But I wonder what your attitude was like when you got stopped by the store clerk. Were you hostile? If you acted in a hostile manner and did not attempt to figure out why the store clerk stopped you, then that is probably why he called the police. I made the mistake of almost walking out of a convenience store with some goods before. That only happened because I was in a hurry to go somewhere but I forget the details. What I do remember is, once the store clerk told me I didn't pay for the item, I stopped and realized that I was holding something that I had not yet paid for. I immediately apologized for my mistake and paid them. And that was that.

I see no reason why the store clerk would escalate the situation and call the local law enforcement unless your behavior caused him to believe that he could not resolve the situation by himself. I suspect that you may have raised your voice and behaved somewhat belligerently because you did not understand what the store clerk was saying or why he was trying to stop you. Perhaps he was speaking Chinese too fast? And compound that with the fact that you just woke up and your mind was in a haze. I can imagine how easily it would be to absentmindedly get rid of some trash (because you are not a litter bug) and leave to hurry up and finish your homework (because you are a good student).
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Re: $25NT bag of chips AND A MISUNDERSTANDING

Postby Gryphon » 03 Dec 2011, 22:08

archylgp wrote:Muzha man is right: you didn't steal anything, but common sense doesn't apply here and the laws generally work against foreigners, anyways: the police might have taken you in even if you paid after you found out what was going on. It's pretty obvious the owner wants to take you to court; it would have been so easy for him/her to just ask you to pay for the chips assuming you forgot. Actually, that would have been the normal thing to do, especially since you didn't leave the store.


I don't know if I would agree with that. It's still considered shoplifting if you put something in a container (in this case his stomach) without the intention to pay for it even if you don't leave the store. The police here are generally reasonable and would most likely have given OP ample time to resolve the situation unless OP was shouting angrily and refusing to pay. Handcuffs would not have been involved if it was not deemed necessary. Don't forget that OP said that 6 or 7 police officers came to the store. Ask yourselves what kind of behavior would warrant so many officers to contain the situation?
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Re: $25NT bag of chips AND A MISUNDERSTANDING

Postby ironlady » 03 Dec 2011, 22:50

Yeah, I have to say, I don't know how old the OP is, but back when I was a kid, it was completely unacceptable to eat food in a supermarket or store before you had paid for it. 7-Elevens have tables and internet these days, but it is usually expected that you will purchase the food before eating it.
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Re: $25NT bag of chips AND A MISUNDERSTANDING

Postby Super Hans » 03 Dec 2011, 22:55

Gryphon is right to be suspicious of the OP's behaviour.
However, that's not the point. Regardless of the OP's behaviour, it's not shoplifting, even if he was being belligerent. Unless the court can prove an element of intent, then regardless of the OP's behaviour, he has committed absolutely no crime. I believe under Taiwanese law, a person must have absolute proof that a crime has been committed before they are able to apprehend somebody. Having reasonable suspicion that an offence has been committed or is about to be committed is not grounds to apprehend somebody unless you happen to be a police officer. Taiwanese law closely follows many aspects of western law in this respect.
The store owner has stopped a person from leaving the store without being absolutely sure that the OP was not going to pay for the goods. I hope the OP made this very clear in his statement and in the prosecutor's initial hearing.

The courts are very nasty in Taiwan, more so towards foreigners and the whole system is extremely corrupt. I would highly recommend seeking legal representation because the prosecutor may well push for deportation for 'not respecting the laws of Taiwan.'
OP: I'm not trying to worry you, but you MUST MUST MUST find legal representation. Get the CCTV tapes. Get all the evidence which supports you defence. Make sure the police emptied your pockets and recorded all the money that you had on you - if they didn't, they weren't doing their jobs.
The courts need to prove intent and you must have left the shop. If they can't prove intent and you didn't leave the shop, then they have no case, but it won't stop them from sentencing you if you do not know the law or have nobody to represent you.
You may get the chance to settle out of court. This will normally involve mediation and paying compensation to the owner and will not normally involve receiving a criminal record. As it is possible that this is what the owner is after (I doubt that justice heads the top of her priorities) then it may well be better to say sorry and cough up depending on the amount. If you are innocent, then it is a hard thing to do, but it will stop further complications for you - and let's face it, I doubt justice heads the top of the court's priorities either.
However, I am no lawyer and no expert. The laws may have changed since I was last made aware of them, which is why you need to seek legal representation.

Edit:

Make sure the police also have the empty potato chip bag and the till receipt roll as exhibits. Again. if they don't have these items, it counts towards your defence.
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