What Are Your Rights If You Are Accused of Shoplifting?

Recorded on January 20, 2021.

What happens if you’re accused of shoplifting without good cause? Are retailers allowed to detain you if they believe you’re attempting to steal from their store?

Managing partner Paul Harding of Martin, Harding & Mazzotti is on CBS6 to help explain.

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Male: Following segment is sponsored by Martin, Harding & Mazzotti.

Interviewer: Retailers have had to deal with shoplifting for as long as they have been in business. Some estimate that shoplifting costs store owners billions of dollars each year, and in turn, these businesses have employed a number of measures to fight back. But what happens if you’re accused of shoplifting without good cause?

Here to help discuss this legal issue and your rights is managing partner, Paul Harding, from the law firm of Martin, Harding & Mazzotti. Paul, jump right into it, are retailers allowed to detain you if they believe you’re attempting to steal from their store?

Paul: So they can, they can absolutely approach, they can confront, and they can detain, but they better be pretty sure that in fact, you did what they think you did.

Interviewer: So, what legal recourse do our viewers have if they are wrongfully accused?

Paul: You know, if you get confronted or if they start asking you questions, and it becomes a scene and, you know, people know what’s happening, and then turns out you didn’t do that, then you have defamation of character. If they’ve gone ahead, and aggressively you leave the store and they tackle you down, which is something that really doesn’t happen a whole lot.

But if you have physical injuries, you do have a claim. And of course, if they’re profiling the way you look, the way you’re dressed, again, you would have more options.

Interviewer: So a recent story made national headlines involved a woman falsely accusing a teen of stealing her iPhone, what legal recourse do our viewers have if someone wrongfully accuses them of stealing? And, you know, do you have to empty your pockets if that’s what’s being requested?

Paul: It’s the same sort of thing that, you know, you’ve got to comply, but the question is, how far do you have? What happens if you just kind of walk by, and they say, “Hey, we’d like to talk to you, sir?” And I keep walking by, right? You know, to what actions are they going to take and what can they take?

So, it really comes down to a reasonable belief that what someone did what they said they were going to do, and from the perspective of if you are wrongfully accused, you know, you’ve got to look at why you were wrongfully accused or what you perceive to have been that and did they cause you physical harm?

Interviewer: All right, Paul, thanks so much for your time. Of course, if you’d like to see more of the topics that we’ve covered, just head to our website, cbs6albany.com

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