The Powers of a Store Security Guard to Make an Arrest in Florida
Security guards working in stores in Florida may detain a person if they suspect him/her of shoplifting, but only until the arrival of the police.
In Florida, the law states that any merchant who can confirm probable cause that a retail theft has been committed by a person may detain the offender for a reasonable period of time. Property alleged to have been stolen must be able to be observed and retained. Once custody has taken place, the store security guard must detain the person and call the police immediately.
If the store’s management or store security guard sees you depositing an item in your bag, this is considered by them to be good grounds for detaining you. If a beep from an anti shoplifting or inventory control device alerts the store, even if you have exited it, this may still be grounds for detaining you. Once detained, they may ask you to admit to stealing. This could involve a written admission of guilt, but it is always in your best interest to say and do nothing. There are even occasions when a statement has been signed and the goods returned with the promise the defendant will be let go, but then they are handed over to the police with all the evidence that they have provided.
Overall, store security workers have the powers to detain a person until the arrival of the police. In some situations some store security workers may even be acting on behalf of the police and can actually make a legal arrest. Generally most arrests occur when the police arrive at the store.
Many security personnel will not apprehend a suspected thief until the suspect has physically left the store. This is because it is not until they have observed the thief concealing the item in a bag, or beneath their clothing, that they would have an open and shut case proving theft has taken place. It is hard to argue that someone intended to pay for some goods when s/he has walked out of the store without paying for them.
When the case goes to court, defendants may still win because they insist they intended to pay for the goods despite having left the store and were apprehended by security staff. The judge and jury base their decisions on the evidence presented in court at the time.
Florida’s penalties for retail theft in the state depend on the valuation of the stolen products and the defendant's previous criminal history.
• Stealing goods valued at below $100 is classified as petit theft in the 2nd degree. This is a 2nd degree misdemeanor which could attract 60 days in jail and/or a $500 fine. This could be upgraded to a 1st degree misdemeanor charge if you have committed other offenses. If you have been convicted for 2 or more offenses you could face a 3rd degree felony charge. • Stolen goods valued between $101 and $300 attract a petit theft charge in the 1st degree which could mean 12 months in jail, 12 months probation and/or a fine of $1,000 • If the stolen goods are valued at between $301 and $5,000, the charge is grand theft in the 3rd degree. This is a 3rd degree felony and could attract 5 years in a Florida state prison and/or a $5,000 fine or less. You can also expect your driver’s license to be suspended for up to 6 months for a 1st offense and 12 months for 2 or more offenses.
If you believe you have been wrongfully charged with shoplifting after being detained by a store security guard, don’t accept the decision but contact experienced Miami criminal defense attorney Albert Quirantes Esq. to assess your charge and try to get you off. You can call his office in Miami at 305-644-1800.
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For over 30 years, Miami criminal defense attorney Albert M. Quirantes has been aggressively and zealously defending the rights of those accused of felony and misdemeanor crimesthroughout South Florida. With his dedicated team, reasonable legal fees, and a well-earned reputation for challenging prosecutors at every turn, he has protected over 8,000 clients during some of the roughest times of their lives.
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