Your Rights at a Retail Outlet

You have legal rights when you shop. While a shopkeeper has the right to detain a person they suspect of shoplifting until the police arrive, that doesn’t mean that you are powerless when you have done nothing wrong. If your rights are violated, or if you are wrongfully charged with a crime, your best defense starts with contacting a criminal defense attorney long beach CA.

Shopkeeper’s Privilege

shopkeeper’s privilege is a law that allows the owner or manager or owner of a retail outlet to detain a suspected shoplifter. This detention must occur at the store and can only last for a reasonable amount of time. If the belief is sincere that a person committed a theft crime at the store, the shopkeeper’s privilege protects the store owner or employee from facing any civil or criminal liability.

The purpose behind the privilege may seem reasonable. Shoplifters rarely linger, especially when called out by a store employee. If a retail store was required to rely entirely on the police to arrest shoplifters, the theory is that they would all escape long before the police arrive. That puts shopkeepers in a tough position: allow theft to go unchecked, or risk breaking the law by detaining a suspect.

However, the privilege can still lead to potential violations of your civil rights if you are held in an unreasonable manner. To use the privilege, a shopkeeper must follow a few basic guidelines. First, the shopkeeper is required to hold the suspected shoplifter on or near the premises of the store. Second, the shopkeeper must have reasonable grounds to believe a theft happened. Third, the shopkeeper must use only reasonable amounts of force to detain a suspect. This force can never be lethal. Finally, the detention must be brief. If the detention is longer than what is reasonable, the privilege will not be available.

Exceptions to the Shopkeeper’s Privilege

This right is not without limits. The privilege to detain a person can only be used in cases where a there is a sincere belief that shoplifting occurred. In other words, you cannot be detained for any reason short of a suspicion that a theft occurred. In fact, you have no obligation to show your receipt when asked by a door greeter.

Additionally, shopkeepers may have the power to detain, but that power falls short of what law enforcement is authorized to do. Shopkeepers cannot search a suspect or attempt to force them to confess. The primary purpose for the privilege outside of detaining a suspect is to allow for easy identification of stolen items. If a suspect is allowed to leave the store, they will have ample opportunity to dispose of the stolen goods or even claim that they previously owned them. If your rights have been violated by law enforcement or a store employee, you may benefit from a consultation with experienced legal counsel. Contact an attorney right away to learn about your options and have your legal questions answered.