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March 24, 2012

Falsely Arrested For Shoplifting

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Michael Ross, Attorney at Law

Have you or a loved one been falsely arrested for shoplifting?

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Everyday, innocent people who have not stolen anything are falsely arrested for shoplifting by store security or even sales staff.  Such action is usually the result of over-zealous or poorly trained security hired by the stores for the purpose of so-called “loss prevention.” 

Although many people are falsely arrested everyday, they may be unaware that they have a right to compensated with money damages for false arrest, civil assault & battery, and intentional and/or negligent infliction of emotional distress.

In all too many cases, the store personnel misinterpret the innocent activities of a legitimate shopper as that of a thief.  Security or store clerks might then execute what is commonly known as a “citizen’s arrest” on the unfortunate shopper, setting in motion a series of traumatic events calculated to humiliate and intimidate the shopper.

Do Not Sign Anything!

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Do Not Admit Anything!

If you are arrested then above all, do not sign any sort of document for the store that has arrested you, and do not admit or plead guilty to anything.  Neither should you enter a guilty or no contest plea in criminal court, because this will almost certainly preclude you from successfully claiming and recovering money damages from the store.

What Is Theft Anyway?

“Theft” is defined as the taking away of the property of another with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of it. 

Can Store Personnel Actually Arrest You?

Yes, but...

Shopkeepers privilege 001In California, as in most states, there is what is known as a “shopkeeper’s privilege” for storeowners or their agents to perform a citizen’s arrest on a shoplifter.  However, this justification of using this privilege is conditioned on the arrested person actually having committed a theft.  If the arrested person has not committed a theft but is arrested, the store is civilly liable to the arrestee for money damages, and possibly for criminal false imprisonment.

Inspector clouseau 001 txmx2In many cases, an innocent shopper has examined an item of merchandise, somehow arousing the suspicions of security people who end up arresting the shopper, but the shopper had not stolen the item.

Another scenario is when a shopper takes a bag or shopping cart outside of the store – sometimes just a matter of inches and for only a moment – simply to hail a friend or relative.  Cases like these and many others occur ending with false arrests every day.

False arrest victim 002 the GOnce the innocent shopper is arrested, the person is usually handcuffed (although this raises the issue of excessive force, which is impermissible in any arrest) and taken to some windowless office in the back of the store.  There, it is common for security people to use intimidating tactics to force the arrest person into signing a confession. 

Often the arrested person is kept for hours before police are summoned, and preventing the arrested person from communicating with friends, relatives or their attorney.  In extreme cases, children are also “arrested” by security and not allowed to call relatives.  Obviously, this sort of treatment can result in mental, emotional, and occasionally physical trauma that can affect a person for years.

Not guilty
Many people who have been falsely arrested have never been in trouble with the law in their lives.  This makes the experience of being arrested even more traumatic.  They are treated like common criminals throughout the entire arrest process, and this affects the innocent arrestee terribly.  Often the person cannot go out into a public place for a very long time.  Relationships are strained, their work suffers, and the person may feel – correctly so – that his or her very health has been severely affected.

You Can Sue The Store For False Arrest!

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What can be done if this happens to you or a loved one?  The remedy for such outrageous behavior lies with the courts and finding the right lawyer to bring the offending store to account for their wrongdoing.  This means to make a claim for money to compensate you for the store’s wrongdoing, or to file an actual lawsuit for money damages. 

The Law Office of Michael Ross has been successful in recovering compensation for victims of false imprisonment for nearly twenty years in the courts of Northern California.

Mr. Ross may be contacted at:

The Law Offices of Michael Ross

473 Jackson Street, 2nd Floor

San Francisco, CA 94111-1607

(415) 345-1335

Email:  mdr@mikerosslaw.com



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It's one of those moments when you have to stand your ground. There's no need to be aggressive, as that would only add fuel to the fire. Keep calm, be assertive. In turn, your attitude can help protect you against any possible embarrassment from this event.

Like any victim of this humiliating process Mr Blacker would, if he chose to pursue the matter, be entitled to substantial compensation.

What is the average or least amount of money awarded for a false arrest claim on shoplifting lawsuits? To start out on my part. I was stopped before exiting the store with no items on me.

A couple weeks ago, I went to Walgreens in San Francisco. I bring a backpack with me when I enter a store, and it has a tag on it, so it is a new backpack, and there is no surveillance tag on the backpack too. I don't buy anything when I was in a store, but when I exit the store, the security guard stopped me and asked me to come back, and the conversation between me and the security guard are as follows:

Security Guard: Where do you think you are going?
Me: I am leaving the store. Why?
Security Guard: You have stolen the backpack from the store.
Me: No, I didn't steal the backpack from your store. I bring this backpack when I entered the store. You did not see me bringing the backpack when I entered the store, did you?
Security Guard: No, I didn't. Follow me, I want to check to make sure if you steal the backpack from our store.

Then, I follow him to the back of the store, and he found out that the backpack belongs to the store. Then, he called the police, and I was sent to jail. Finally, he found out that I was right. I bring the backpack when I entered the store. Then, I was released. My question is: Can I sue Walgreens for false imprisonment? Thanks.

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