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.
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.
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.