Stores selling consumer goods take shoplifting seriously. Each time an item “walks” out of the door without payment, the store loses money and gains a reputation for criminal activity. A variety of high-tech theft prevention devices, like cameras and RFID detectors, have reduced the regularity of shoplifting. These advances have helped, but many stores still use the original theft deterrent – security guards.
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Security guards, also known as theft prevention officers, introduce a human element to the struggle of stopping shoplifters. Unlike cameras, humans often act with emotion, abusing their power and the rights of others. This brings up an intriguing question: How much power do store security guards have?
Shoplifting in Texas
Shoplifting is defined as deliberately taking items from a store with the intention of not paying for the item. In Texas, theft crimes are classified based on the value of the stolen item, with shoplifting charges typically being classified as misdemeanors. When the value of an shoplifted item exceeds $1,500, you can be charged with a state jail felony. For major shoplifting sprees with items valued over $200,000, you can be charged with a first-degree felony.
The charges for theft of goods can be enhanced by a variety of conditions. Previous convictions and using a firearm will all raise the severity of punishment. Shoplifters caught using tools to defeat a theft deterrent device or security alarm will also face enhanced levels of punishment.
Power of a Security Guard
A security guard is not a police officer. Many times they are not on the store payroll but contracted with a firm that specializes in private security. These circumstances give security guards a unique brand of power. They are not bound by the same laws as the police, meaning that security guards:
- Don’t have to read accused shoplifters their rights;
- Are not bound by law to tell the truth; and
- Can stop, question and detain you.
Private security guards have a little more latitude, and arguably more power, as they are not governed by the U.S. Constitution. However, their rights as a citizen to detain you only go so far. Store employees, including store security officers, must have probable cause in order to detain you, but they may not use excessive force to do so.
If you have been detained by a store employee for suspected shoplifting, you have the right to remain silent and to request a lawyer. The best thing to do is politely cooperate but do not make any statements, sign any documents, or consent to any search until your lawyer is present.
If you are accused of shoplifting and had an altercation with a store security guard, contact the office of Lisa Shapiro Strauss for representation. Shoplifting attorney Lisa Shapiro Strauss is highly proficient in defending clients in shoplifting cases that involve contact with a security guard.
Answers to Your Shoplifting Questions
First, it is important that you remain calm, and don’t say anything that could be used against you later on. Also, keep in mind that the store owner or security guard only have the right to detain you if they have probable cause that you have stolen something, but they do not have any right to use excessive force. As soon as possible, call an experienced shoplifting attorney. After you’ve made the call, cooperate politely and wait for your attorney to arrive.
According to Texas law, a retailer may claim someone intended to steal an item if it is hidden in a backpack or concealed in a way that makes it obvious it is hidden.
Employees and security guards often wait for a suspect to leave the store before approaching them because it is easier to prove theft after they leave the premises. However, to prove intent to shoplift, a person does not need to leave the store.
Shoplifting charges in Houston can be cleared in two ways. An experienced shoplifting attorney can assist you in deciding which option is best for your case.
In order to qualify for Deferred Adjudication you must enter a guilty plea to the shoplifting charge, and in exchange you will be placed on probation for six months to a year. The process will seal your records from everyone except the government and law enforcement.
Pretrial Diversion is the only way to have your case dismissed completely. If the District Attorney accepts your application, you will work extra hours of community service and sign an agreement with a zero-tolerance policy for breaking the law.
Get Help From A Shoplifting Attorney in Houston
As the most experienced shoplifting attorney in Houston, the Lisa Shapiro Strauss law firm will work to protect your rights and clear your record. As part of public record, future employees can see your shoplifting charge. There are two ways to clear your record, deferred adjudication and pretrial diversion, and our Houston shoplifting attorneys have the expertise to pick the best option for your case. In addition, we will consider all the facts surround your interaction with store security. Abuse of power is common, and we work hard to protect your rights. Call the office of Lisa Shapiro Strauss to speak with our attorney team.