Your rights if you get detained for shoplifting

If you get detained in a store by a security officer, you may be wondering what is happening. No one wants to be accused of shoplifting or wrongfully detained. The security personnel may try to get you to sign a statement for you to admit guilt. 

In this situation, your rights may get infringed. Whether you actually stole something or not, you still have rights. Here are the essential things you need to know if you are ever detained for shoplifting. 

Probable cause

First of all, there must be an actual reason for the security person to detain you. Under California theft laws, there must be “probable cause” that you stole an item. Someone needs to see you take a piece of store merchandise, conceal it and walk towards the exit or leave the store. You cannot be detained if you are holding or concealing something that came from outside the premises. 

Nondeadly force

When you are approached by security and detained, they cannot use excessive force against you. They only have the legal authority to use enough force to prevent you from escaping and to protect themselves. For example, a security officer can block the exit to stop you from leaving or hold you down in self-defense if you act violently. 

Cooperation and representation

If you get detained, do not act belligerent or incriminate yourself. Cooperate with store personnel and any police officers who arrive. Your best bet is to cooperate and simply be honest. Hopefully, you will get out of detention without any issue. But if your rights were violated or you get charged with petty theft, you should seek immediate legal counsel. 

You may be stressed out and angry when accused of shoplifting or when you have your rights violated, but resist the urge to be hot-headed. Remain calm and seek legal help if necessary. 

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