Security Guards Who Wrongly Arrest Shoppers

Unlike law enforcement officers, private security guards are not protected by laws barring lawsuits against them for false arrest.

What happens when you are wrongfully arrested by a security guard

With shoplifting somewhat low on the police priority list, many businesses employ private security guards rather than trust that a policeman will come immediately when called to the scene of a suspected shopifting. But sometimes these guards make mistakes (perhaps more often than professional law enforcement), apprehending shoppers who claim they had no intention to leave without paying for merchandise. If the prosecutors won't charge the case, or the judge or jury sides with the accused, these defendants may want compensation from the guard who falsely accused them.

However, most states accord security guards only the same rights as any other citizen when it comes to making arrests. Security guards ordinarily cannot arrest suspected shoplifters and take them to jail. Instead, guards can detain suspected shoplifters long enough for a police officer to arrive and arrest a suspect based on information provided by the guard.

Laws in all states generally protect police officers from being sued for false arrest so long as they have valid reasons for arresting suspects who turn out to be innocent. But these laws do not protect private citizens, including security guards. If a security guard makes a mistake and detains an innocent suspect, the detained individual may sue both the guard and the shop that employed the guard for damages in civil court.

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