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What Can a Loss Prevention Officer Do in a Retail Theft Case?

Dec 13, 2017, by Maurice Davis in Theft

A store’s first line of defense against retail theft is its team of loss prevention officers. These private security guards, sometimes undercover, patrol the store to dissuade, investigate, and catch shoplifters. Since loss prevention officers are not part of a government law enforcement agency, they are under no obligation to respect your constitutional rights. That being said, there are state laws that regulate their conduct, and they may be sued in civil court if they falsely arrest you or use an unreasonable amount of force.

If you’ve been detained by a loss prevention officer for an extended amount of time while the store investigates a suspected theft, or if a security guard used excessive force against you on the suspicion that you shoplifted, a Detroit retail fraud lawyer can help. At Davis Law Group, not only can we fight to clear your name and restore your reputation, we may be able to collect a settlement from the store to compensate for your injuries and trauma.

Call our office today at (313) 818-3238 to schedule a free consultation regarding your case.

Loss Prevention Officers Are Not the Police

Loss prevention officers are employees of corporations, as opposed to agents of the state. This means that a loss prevention officers are under no obligation to read you your Miranda rights, for example. When the police arrest you and want to question you about alleged criminal activity, they must inform you of your right to remain silent, and the fact that anything you say may be used against you in a court of law. Since loss prevention officers don’t have this obligation, you cannot request the dismissal of your retail theft charges because you weren’t afforded these rights by the store’s employees.

Store security guards cannot charge you with a crime, either. Only the police can do that. Generally, loss prevention officers will detain and question you, then call the police. Do not make any statements to the loss prevention officers, or sign any documents. When the police show up, the loss prevention officers will tell their version of the story. In all likelihood, the police will then arrest you and charge you with shoplifting. No matter how angry or humiliated you might be, this is not the time to argue about your case. Continue to remain silent and ask for the assistance of a lawyer as possible.

State Law Regulates the Conduct of Loss Prevention Officers

Although the regulations that apply to the police do not apply to loss prevention officers, the Michigan Legislature has passed several statutes addressing the limits of their authority. Specifically, loss prevention officers must:

Only arrest you on probable cause

You may sue a store for false arrest if its employees make a citizen’s arrest without probable cause to believe you have stolen something. In general, a loss prevention officer must observe you approaching, selecting, concealing, and failing to pay for an item to support the claim of probable cause for shoplifting. Additionally, they should prove that they their surveillance was uninterrupted, and they confronted you once you passed the cash register.

Use reasonable force

Loss prevention officers should only use reasonable force in detaining a suspect. If you’ve been injured by loss prevention officers, it’s more than likely they used more than reasonable force against you. Bear in mind, however, that if you attempt to assault a loss prevention officer, they are authorized to use a proportional amount of force against you under the doctrine of self-defense.

Detain you for a reasonable time

Michigan Compiled Laws (MCL) 338.1051, loss prevention officers can only detain you within or in the immediate vicinity of the store, and for a reasonable amount of time. What consists in a reasonable amount of time varies case-by-case, but generally it is not okay for them to detain you for more than an hour, even if the police haven’t shown up yet to take over the investigation.

If all three of these conditions are met, MCL 600.2917 states that you cannot recover damages for false imprisonment, unlawful arrest, assault, battery, libel, or slander.

How Can a Detroit Shoplifting Lawyer Help?

Your shoplifting case may have two components: criminal charges and a lawsuit in civil court. The prosecutor may charge you with larceny, and the store might sue you to recover the value of the stolen property. Your lawyer will need to mount an effective defense against the criminal charges while helping you avoid the liabilities arising out of the civil lawsuit. Depending on the conduct of the loss prevention officers and the police, it may be possible to countersue the store for unlawfully detaining you.

Call Davis Law Group Today

At Davis Law Group, we are dedicated to protecting the rights of people accused of criminal wrongdoing. We find that the most effective defense often consists of demonstrating wrongdoing on the part of the government agents and private citizens who may have contributed to your arrest and alleged crime. If you’ve been charged with retail theft, or if you’ve been abused by a loss prevention officer, call attorney Maurice Davis for a free and confidential consultation.

Contact Davis Law Group today at (313) 818-3238.