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The Florida Bar

Detaining a Shoplifter at the Store

Under most state laws, a private citizen not associated with the store may not legally hold anyone against their will. Such action may attract civil or criminal liability for unlawful detention. However, many state laws have permitted stores and their employees to make in-store detention of a shoplifting suspect in certain situations. Such laws provide protection to the store owners from lawsuits claiming false detention. However, such in-store detention must be backed by a probable cause against the suspect. Furthermore, the detention must be reasonable in manner and length. Questions about being detained in Broward County shoplifting cases contact criminal attorney William Moore.

Merely having a suspicion against an individual of shoplifting and making an in-store detention on that basis may not be enough to make it permissible detention under the law. Most state laws require that the store owner or the employees must have reasonable evidence that makes them believe that an act of shoplifting took place or was in progress. If the in-store detention is made on the basis of an informer who is not connected with the store, such informer should have a probable cause for such suspicion against an individual. Even with that probable cause, this citizen or any retail store employee does not have the right to beat down or use gross physical force on a the suspect. Of course they do have the right to defend themselves.

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