Wed 28 Feb, 2024 Litigation

Can a Security Guard Arrest You?

A security guard can arrest you for shoplifting under certain circumstances. However, if a security guard detains you without reasonable grounds, he and his employer may be liable for false arrest.

This article outlines when a security guard can detain you in New York. If you believe you were unlawfully detained by a security guard in New York City, contact Cody Warner, P.C. for a free consultation. We can determine whether you have a winning legal claim.

Security Guard Arrests: The Law in New York

In New York, security guards are considered to be “peace officers.” Security guards are not police officers and do not have all the powers held by police officers. Most don’t carry guns or handcuffs. When security guards arrest or detain someone, they perform a “citizens arrest.” Therefore, when a security guard stops someone, it’s legally the same as if a civilian stops a suspect to hold him for the police.

New York law gives store security guards some legal protection when they detain customers suspected of shoplifting. General Business Law 218 states that retail establishments are not liable for false arrest and other related claims if they have reasonable grounds to believe that the person they detained was shoplifting. Reasonable grounds can include, but is not limited to:

  • When a customer conceals possession of unpurchased merchandise
  • When a customer possesses an item designed to overcome security tag detection

Even if the store security has reasonable grounds that a customer was shoplifting, store security must detain the person in a reasonable manner. In other words, store security cannot attack a suspected shoplifter. For this reason, many retailers have policies where they will not forcefully seize shoplifters, because they do not want to face legal liability.

How to Sue a Security Guard for Wrongful Arrest

Sometimes store security guards rush to judgment and unlawfully arrest customers. When that happens, you can sue the store to seek justice.

One common example is when store security arrests a customer for taking merchandise from one floor to another without paying. Some stores have cash registers on each floor, and they expect their customers to purchase items before they browse on another floor. Unless the store has clear signs instructing customers to pay on each floor, the store could be liable for false arrest.

Another common example is when the store has self-checkout kiosks. A person could innocently miss scanning an item and therefore not have the intent to steal the property. If store security arrests someone for accidentally not scanning an item, the store could be liable for false arrest.

If you were unlawfully arrested in New York, you have one year from the date of the arrest to file a lawsuit. The amount of compensation you can receive will be dependent on how long you were incarcerated and whether you faced criminal charges. An experienced wrongful arrest lawyer can make sure that you get maximum payout for your claim.

Need Help?

If you believe you were unlawfully detained by store security in NYC, contact Cody Warner, P.C. for a free consultation. We can assess your case to make sure that you are fairly compensated and that the security guards are held responsible for their wrongdoing.