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Can a store owner or employee detain a shoplifter?

On Behalf of | Mar 6, 2024 | Criminal Defense |

Even when accused of a crime, such as shoplifting, you have rights. Since changes were made to Georgia’s citizen’s arrest law, the rules for using it have become stricter to prevent potential abuse. Even if the law permits a store or its employees to detain you for theft, there are still boundaries they must respect.

Retail owners in Georgia can detain shoplifters but not arrest

Retailers or employees can legally detain, rather than arrest, someone they saw stealing or have reasons to believe they did. Detention is only a temporary measure, allowing the store to investigate what happened and hold a suspect until the police can take over. It must be brief. If the police do not show up within an hour of detention, the store must let the detained offender go along with their belongings.

On the other hand, if the police arrive, they could arrest the suspect for theft by shoplifting. Still, neither the retail owners, employees or the police can use deadly force unless there is an immediate threat to someone’s safety.

Unfortunately, there are many instances of wrongful accusations or rights violations during detention or arrests in Georgia. If this is the case for you, stay calm and consider speaking with an attorney when you can.

Potential consequences of shoplifting

Facing shoplifting charges can be terrifying, mainly because the state imposes severe penalties. Even a first conviction could result in a felony if the value of the stolen property exceeds $500, subject to one to 10 years in prison.

Beyond criminal penalties, the retailer may pursue civil damages and demand payment for their losses.

If you are facing charges for shoplifting or similar offenses, a criminal defense attorney may act as your advocate. These situations can undoubtedly be frightening and life-changing if mishandled. Having a lawyer defend your rights or guide you through the process may allow you to confront accusations more effectively than you might alone.