Ohio 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 theftSecurity Guard in a Store Observing a 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.

Are you or someone you know facing theft charges? 

If you are facing theft charges, you need to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. The Law Offices of Steven R. Adams is recognized by Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers, The Best Lawyers in America, National Trial Lawyers Top 100, and is one of U.S. News' Best Law Firms.  Please contact us online or call our Cincinnati office directly at 513-929-9333 to schedule your free consultation. 

Tad Brittingham
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Criminal defense attorney Tad Brittingham is dedicated to serving his clients throughout the Cincinnati area