Missouri has specific statute that allows for a business to detain an individual who it alleges has wrongfully taken merchandise or money. According to section 537.125.2, titled Shoplifting – detention of suspect by merchant, “any merchant, his agent or employee, who has reasonable grounds or probable cause to believe that a person has committed or is committing a wrongful taking of merchandise or money . . . may detain such person in a reasonable manner and for a reasonable length of time for the purpose of investigating . . . .”
There is no set standard to determine what reasonable grounds are or what would qualify as a reasonable amount of time for investigation. That is simply a question for a jury in a civil action brought by the accused against the business who held him or her. It all depends on what the average person in those circumstances saw that lead he or she to believe the accused individual was shoplifting. It could be the concealment of merchandise or seeing on security cameras the individual leaving the store without paying for merchandise in his or her possession.
It is not a defense to a charge of shoplifting if the store held you without reasonable grounds or for an unreasonable amount of time. However, the above mentioned statute may provide you with civil remedies if you were never charged or if you are eventually acquitted. Also, if the person being detained is a minor, it may be possible to suppress statements made by the minor to law enforcement if there was not a parent or attorney present during the detention. Generally, this would not apply to statements made to security guards or agents of the business.
Regardless, if you or your child has been accused of shoplifting, it is important to exercise your 5th Amendment rights when being detained until you have spoken with an experienced criminal defense attorney. At Henderson & Waterkotte, P.C. a lawyer is available 24/7 to assist you with your legal needs. Call us today at 314-645-4400 for a free consultation.