Understanding Shopkeeper’s Privilege and Shoplifting Charges

St. Charles retail theft defense lawyerYou might think that only law enforcement has the right to detain individuals suspected of criminal acts. This is actually untrue. Shopkeeper’s privilege is a store owner’s legal right to detain you for a reasonable amount of time, question you, and call law enforcement to potentially make an arrest if he or she suspects that you have committed a criminal offense, such as shoplifting, in the store. 

Although a store owner or employee may detain and question you in this situation, they do not have the same authority as law enforcement. When you are held for longer than is appropriate for the situation, you may have grounds for a false imprisonment claim against the store owner.

When Can a Shopkeeper or Security Guard Detain Me?

You may only be legally detained in a store when the following circumstances occur:

  • The detaining party has a reasonable cause to believe you have committed an offense;
  • There is an investigation of the alleged offense occurring within the store or within close proximity, like in the store’s parking lot;
  • A reasonable level of non-deadly force is used to detain you; and
  • You are only detained for as long as necessary for the detaining party to get a sufficient amount of information about the alleged offense.

If the store owner determines there is probable cause to believe you have committed a criminal offense, they may call the police. This could end with your arrest if the police have probable cause to believe you have committed the crime.

What Are My Rights While Being Detained in a Store?

When you are detained by a store owner, you have the same rights that you have when detained by law enforcement. One of these is the right to refuse to consent to a search of your person or any of the bags you are carrying. Whether you committed an offense or not, it is typically in your best interests to refuse to consent to this type of search. Another important right to exercise is the right to request a lawyer’s presence during questioning. Perhaps most importantly, you have the right to refuse to answer any questions the store owner, employee, or security guard asks.

If you are arrested or detained, contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible to ensure that your rights are protected in all following interactions with law enforcement.

Contact a Geneva Shoplifting Defense Lawyer

For more information on what a shopkeeper or security guard can and cannot do when they suspect you have committed an offense in a public place, speak with an experienced Naperville criminal defense attorney. Contact our team at Law Office of Glenn M. Sowa, LLC today by calling 630-232-1780 to schedule your initial legal consultation. We can answer any questions you have and help you determine your best defense strategy.