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Shopkeepers Privilege Law

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What Is Shoplifting?

Shoplifting is a criminal act of taking merchandise in a retail store without paying for it. The act of shoplifting requires the intent to permanently deprive the merchant of the merchandise. Many states allow merchants, including their store security team, a privilege when trying to prevent someone from stealing items from a store.

What Is the Shopkeeper’s Privilege?

The shopkeeper’s privilege is a privilege given to merchants to detain a suspected shoplifter on store grounds. The merchant can only detain, or hold, the alleged shopkeeper for a reasonable amount of time.

Can a Merchant Use This Privilege to Stop Anyone?

No. The merchant can only detain someone if there is reason to believe the individual attempted to or actually committed theft. The theft must occur on store property.

In order to use this privilege, the merchant must:

  • Conduct an investigation on or near the premises. The detention of the suspect should also be on or near the premises.
  • Only use non-deadly, reasonable force to detain the suspect. The use of force is only justified if the suspect violently resists or immediately flees the scene.
  • Only detain the suspect long enough to conduct a reasonable investigation into the alleged shoplifting.

Is the Shoplifting the Same as a Citizen’s Arrest?

No. A citizen’s arrest occurs when an individual detains another because the citizen has actually seen the detainee attempt to or actually commit a crime. The detainee is detained until police arrive to make an official arrest. The criminal act could be any crime, including shoplifting.

Can the Use of Shopkeeper’s Privilege Lead to an Arrest?

Yes, if the merchant has enough facts, they can call law enforcement to make an arrest. When an arrest occurs, the suspect is physically taken into police custody.

Should I Contact a Lawyer about the Shopkeeper’s Privilege?

The shopkeeper’s privilege can lead to a shoplifting or theft charge. Contact a criminal lawyer about your arrest. If the merchant was wrong, your lawyer could get the charges dropped.

Photo of page author Taelonnda Sewell

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 12-01-2016 02:42 PM PST

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