Do loss prevention people have the right to hold me without giving me access to my phone?

UPDATED: Sep 29, 2022

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Do loss prevention people have the right to hold me without giving me access to my phone?

I am in the process of being convicted of misdemeanor theft from the department store that I was employed at. I had a few questions about the way in which the “interview” the loss prevention people did. I was ambushed and brought to the office on false pretenses that “everything was okay” and never given the option to leave. Do they have the right to hold me in store with no explanation of why I was there for hours after store closing?

Asked on July 30, 2015 under Criminal Law, Colorado


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

No, they do not have the right to hold you against your will--certainly, they could have called the police, and the police may have held you, but a store's loss prevention staff are not themselves police and have no right to restrain you against your will. As a practical matter, it is unclear what you can do to vindicate your rights, however: an hour or so detention would not support a worthwhile lawsuit, and it is unlikely you will get the authorities interested in taking legal action (i.e. criminal charges) against them. Sometimes, your rights are violated and you can't do much or anything about that. 

Furthermore, you write that you were not given "the option" to leave...did you try to leave? If you did and they physically stopped you, that is one thing, and in that case, it's possible (not definite, but possible) that the authorities might take action, since doing this could constitute assault or unlawful restraint. But if you never tried to leave, then they legally did not restrain you--they don't have an obligation to affirmatively tell you that you could go.

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