A customer uses a self checkout terminal at an Aldi grocery store on July 22, 2022. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

It has probably happened to all of us. You’re at the supermarket self-checkout and, without even knowing it, you forget to scan something. You might not realize it until you get to your car because the item is still sitting on the bottom of your shopping cart. At that point, you can choose to go back in the store and pay for it, or hope that no one saw what you did. But if they did see, the penalty could be severe in one southern state.

In a guest opinion column on AL.com, State Representative Prince Chestnut shared that House Bill 288 could make it a felony to forget to scan an item at self-checkout in the state of Alabama. According to Rep. Chestnut, “The Retail Crime Prevention Act” includes ambiguous clauses that make stealing a shopping cart or two teenagers stealing a candy bar felonies.

Furthermore, anyone forgetting to scan a bottle of water or a bag of pet food on the bottom of their shopping cart could be charged with a Class B felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison. What!?! Chestnut argues that this is a “flawed and unnecessary bill.” It certainly does seem excessive.

Sure, stealing is wrong, and there are laws against that. However, doing hard time for making simple mistake such as forgetting to scan a grocery item is taking it to far. If HB288 passes, the good people of Alabama will need to be extra careful in the self-checkout lane.

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