Security Guard in a Store Observing a TheftOhio law does allow store employees to detain someone if they suspect the person is shoplifting. However, the law sets forth certain guidelines that must be followed in order to respect the detainee’s rights. If you were unlawfully detained, our defense attorneys may be able to use this information when refuting charges of theft

Rules for Holding a Suspected Shoplifter Onsite in Ohio

A store owner, employee, or hired security guard can hold you on suspicion of committing theft as long as:

  • They have probable cause to believe you are stealing. Employees cannot detain you on the claim that you “look” like you might steal something, they must have a valid reason to suspect you of shoplifting. This could be proof of a crime (such as a witness who saw the theft) or a reasonable suspicion of a crime (such as irregular bulges in coat pockets).
  • You are kept in the store or somewhere nearby. You must be detained within the immediate vicinity of where the alleged crime occurred.
  • You are not searched. Employees do not have the right to search your body, clothing, or bags. They also cannot take any property that rightfully belongs to you (such as your phone).
  • You are not unduly restrained. Your detention should not put your life or health at risk. Examples of undue restraint might include binding your hands, tying you to a pipe or chair, or locking you alone in a room.
  • You are detained for a reasonable length of time. While “reasonable” is a subjective term, store employees typically do not have the right to hold you for several hours.
  • Recovery of items is the reason for detention. A store can only hold you for the purposes of recovering the items unlawfully taken, or to wait for law enforcement to arrive.

If you were held by a merchant after an alleged shoplifting offense, The Law Offices of Steven R. Adams, LLC can help you identify whether your rights were violated and build your best possible defense. Call (513) 929-9333 today to get the answers you need in your free case evaluation.


Steven R. Adams
Steven R. Adams was a criminal defense lawyer dedicated to DUI, OVI, and criminal defense in Cincinnati, Ohio.