/ 5.10.24

Can Retail Loss Prevention Arrest You?

Written by: Robert Brady

What an Employee Can and Cannot Do When Detaining a Suspected Shoplifter

Retail stores hire loss prevention officers to prevent damage and theft. Unlike law enforcement, they are not civil servants. This means they are not required to abide by the same rules and regulations law enforcement officers must adhere to. This article details what loss prevention personnel can and cannot do when detaining a suspected shoplifter and what your rights are if you have been detained.

If you have been arrested for shoplifting, contact Ridley Defense. Our attorneys will advocate strongly on your behalf to ensure you get the best possible outcome. Call (805) 208-1866 today to schedule a free case review with a leading shoplifting defense lawyer in Ventura.

What Can a Loss Prevention Officer Do?

Observe and Follow a Possible Shoplifter - Loss prevention officers are trained to spot potential shoplifters. When they observe a shopper who fits certain criteria, they make their presence known and typically follow the person as they navigate the store.

Detain a Suspected Shoplifter - If the officer feels they have enough probable cause to confront a possible shoplifter, they can approach the customer. Standing in front of the alleged shoplifter and asking them to speak with them is within the officer’s rights. If the alleged shoplifter attempts to use force to leave the store or tries to harm or injure the officer, the employee can use reasonable means to defend themselves.

Detaining Suspected Shoplifters

In California, loss prevention officers are legally permitted to detain individuals they reasonably suspect of shoplifting. The right to detain is governed by California Penal Code 490.5(f), which permits a merchant or their employee to detain a person for a reasonable amount of time in order to conduct an investigation.

What is Considered "Reasonable Suspicion" and "Reasonable Time?"

The key terms here are "reasonable suspicion" and "reasonable time." Reasonable suspicion means that loss prevention officers must have more than a “hunch.” The employee must have facts that lead them to the belief that the individual stole or was attempting to steal merchandise.

Reasonable time refers to how long a suspected shoplifter is detained. It should be long enough to investigate and verify the officer’s suspicion, which is typically done through questioning or checking the person’s purse, jacket, or bag, but not excessively long.

Can Loss Prevention Use Force to Apprehend and Detain a Suspected Shoplifter?

Loss prevention officers are not permitted to use excessive force or do anything that would cause harm or injury to the detained individual. Any use of force must be reasonable and necessary to prevent the suspect from fleeing or to protect themselves or others from harm or injury.

Can a Business Owner or Employee Make a Citizen's Arrest?

Loss prevention officers and other employees can perform a citizen's arrest if they have directly seen someone commit a misdemeanor, such as shoplifting, or believe someone has committed a felony. However, the person who performs the arrest must contact the police immediately to take over custody of the suspect. Loss prevention personnel cannot charge a suspected shoplifter with a crime.

Can Loss Prevention Officers Be Sued for False Detention?

Retail stores and their employees must be careful when detaining a potential shoplifter. False detention and/or accusations can lead to costly lawsuits that claim false imprisonment, assault, battery, or defamation. That is why loss prevention officers typically receive extensive training to ensure that their suspicions are well-founded and the actions they take are legally warranted.

What Are Your Rights If You Have Been Detained for Suspected Shoplifting?

If you are detained by a store employee or loss prevention officer, it's important to know you have the following rights:

Right to Reasonable Treatment - You should not be subjected to unnecessary force, public accusation, or humiliation.

Right to Know the Reason for Detention - The loss prevention officer must explain why you were detained.

Right to Remain Silent - You have the right to refuse to answer questions until you have consulted with a lawyer.

Right to an Attorney - If arrested, you have the right to speak with a lawyer.

Contact Ridley Defense Today to Learn More

A shoplifting conviction in California can have a long-lasting impact on your future. A conviction can land you in jail, damage your reputation, and even prevent you from getting a job. That is why it is crucial to take these charges seriously and seek legal representation from an experienced attorney.

At Ridley Defense, our highly-regarded team of criminal defense attorneys has over 20 years of experience fighting for the rights of the accused. We know that everyone makes mistakes and firmly believe that a simple mistake shouldn’t negatively affect your life for years to come. That is why we will do everything possible to get you the best outcome. Take the first step in protecting your rights by calling our office and scheduling a free, confidential consultation with a top shoplifting defense lawyer in Southern California.

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