Michael Ross, Attorney at Law
Have you or a loved one been falsely arrested for shoplifting?
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!
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?
In 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.
In 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.
Once 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.
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!
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