Shopkeeper’s Privilege is the name given to a law that allows business owners to detain people they suspect of shoplifting. Maryland is one of several states that has such a law.
Shoplifting is the theft of merchandise from a business.
When a business owner believes that a store patron has shoplifted items or is attempting to shoplift merchandise, the store owner has probable cause to take the individual into custody. However, the business owner can only detain the suspect for a reasonable length of time and the suspect must be detained in a reasonable manner.
Probable cause means there is specific evidence that would cause a reasonable person to believe that shoplifting has occurred and certainly includes a store owner watching a suspect steal the item. Suspicion of shoplifting is not enough.
Detaining a store patron for a reasonable length of time generally means holding the individual long enough for the police to arrive or as long as necessary to check for hidden store property. A suspect cannot be detained for several hours.
For the most part, shopkeepers are not allowed to use force to hold onto a suspect. The shopkeeper is only allowed to use force if the suspected shoplifter is trying to harm the shopkeeper.
Also, the suspect can only be held on the premises. A store owner cannot chase a suspect over a wide area in an attempt to capture and hold the person suspected of illegally taking store property.
Shopkeeper’s privilege is an exception to liability for false imprisonment — the wrongful detaining of an individual. It allows a shopkeeper to investigate an alleged shoplifting and means that the shoplifter cannot claim false imprisonment and file charges against the store owner.
The shopkeeper cannot arrest the individual, only the police can arrest the suspect.
If you’re facing Ocean City shoplifting or other theft charges, you should talk to a criminal defense attorney. An Ocean City shoplifting defense attorney can protect your legal rights. In some instances, a Baltimore shoplifting criminal defense attorney can help you to avoid a criminal record.
Maronick Law, LLC is open during the pandemic and will continue to meet your Glen Burnie, Annapolis, Baltimore, Essex, Ocean City, Towson, White Marsh shoplifting charges needs.
If you have access to Zoom, we can meet with you remotely. The consultation is free. You can contact Thomas Maronick on his cellphone at 202.288.0167, the law office at 410.881.4022 or via the website.