Can store security detain you in Alabama?

On Behalf of | Mar 22, 2024 | Criminal Defense |

Generally speaking, one private citizen cannot legally detain another against their will without being guilty of false imprisonment – but there are some exceptions to the rule. 

One of these exceptions is called “shopkeeper’s privilege,” and that allows peace officers, store employees and managers in retail stores to detain someone they reasonably suspect of shoplifting until the police can investigate.

So, yes, a store security guard can legally detain you if you’re suspected of shoplifting. 

What do you do in that situation?

Mistakes happen all the time, and store owners sometimes jump to conclusions. If you’re accused of shoplifting, the most important thing to remember right now is that you need to remain calm. You don’t want to say or do anything that could put you in a legally vulnerable position. 

With that in mind:

  • Exercise your right against self-incrimination and remain silent. Do not wait until you are reminded that you have this right to use it, because the store security or manager is not required to offer you a Miranda Warning.
  • Do not sign any papers that you are given. You may be told that you will be allowed to leave the store if you simply pay for the item and sign a confession, but that could later be used against you if the store decides to pursue charges.
  • Do not consent to a search of your pockets, bags, car or cellphone. The shopkeeper’s privilege does not give the merchant or their agent the authority to conduct a warrantless search, and you should not permit one.

Shoplifting is a serious offense in Alabama. At best, it’s a Class A misdemeanor, which still can bring hefty fines and time in jail, but it becomes a felony offense when the value of the allegedly stolen goods exceeds $500. Legal guidance can help you explore all your defense options.