Can an NYC Store Detain You for Shoplifting

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Can an NYC Store Detain You for Shoplifting


According to The New York Times, retail theft is on the rise. You can probably expect most of the places where you shop to be more vigilant about the possibility of shoplifting. Some stores are even getting rid of self-checkout devices because they are worried about shoplifting.

What should you do if a security guard stops you from shoplifting? Are they really allowed to detain you? 

Here’s what you need to know.

Security Guards May Detain You

A security guard may detain you, and they do not have to be in any sort of uniform to do so. They must have a reasonable belief that you have shoplifted, and they may not use excessive force. They may do this even if you did not leave the store with any property.

They may use handcuffs, but they may not injure you. They may not use any kind of excessive force. Nor may they be verbally abusive. 

How long may they detain you? Usually long enough to conduct an investigation or to wait for the police. They may not hold you for an unreasonable amount of time. 

What to Do if Detained

Don’t become aggressive or fight. That could lead to an assault charge in addition to a shoplifting charge. 

Don’t listen to anything they say. They might lie to you to try to secure a confession, just like the police. Don’t sign anything. Don’t say anything. Invoke your right to remain silent and your right to an attorney. If they use this against you or detain you too long because this makes them angry, your attorney can use that behavior to undermine their case. 

Do this even if you are innocent. You cannot just convince the security guard you didn’t steal anything. There’s a good chance you’re going to be charged no matter what. The thing you want to do now is to avoid giving the cops evidence. For petit larceny, you will generally be given a Desk Appearance Ticket (DAT), so you may even be able to avoid jail simply by remaining quiet. 

Note that the store may send you a demand letter asking for money to pay for the alleged item even if you haven’t been convicted, and may send you to collections. They may even threaten to sue you.

Pass these letters to your lawyer so they can help you handle it. Do not pay the money as this could be construed as admitting to shoplifting. 

Accused of Shoplifting?

If you or a loved one is in trouble, don’t hesitate to reach out to our law firm. False shoplifting accusations happen every day.

We have the experience and the training to help you defend this charge. We may be able to get it dropped, dismissed, or reduced. If necessary, we are happy to fight the fight in court to get you acquitted.

Call to schedule a case review today. 

See also: 

Is it Possible to Make a Citizen’s Arrest in NYC?

What Happens When Criminal Charges Get Dropped in NYC

How to Properly Invoke Your Right to Remain Silent, and Why It Matters

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