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How Do Stores Handle Theft?

Interviewer: What’s the position of stores when people steal? Are they hardnosed and they’re going to prosecute, no matter what, if it’s the smallest thing, or do they tend to let people go?

Adam: It depends on who their attorney is and what was taken. It also depends what that person’s background is, for example, if they have a prior criminal history. Ninety-nine percent of the time, the first thing that is done that is almost always guaranteed, is they’re going to want that person never to be in any of their stores.

Interviewer: They’ll ban them from stores?

Adam: Yes. If it’s a Kmart, part of the agreement eventually, if you can negotiate one, would be that he’s no longer allowed to be within so many feet, or enter, a Kmart.

A Contract Not to Enter An Establishment

Interviewer: Is that where the store would get a restraining order against the person, or what would that be called?

Adam: It would be almost like a contract that you’re making with the state.

Interviewer: That would be part of your plea agreement, or settlement? For instance, if you stole from Wal-Mart, you can never go into a Wal-Mart again anywhere in Ohio, or come within 100 feet of one, for example.

Adam: Yes, that is correct.

If You Are Suspected of theft, Can the Store Personnel Detain You?

Interviewer: If you steal from a store, are the store’s employees allowed to detain you? Are they allowed to restrain you by force, or put you into a room, or do they have to let you go if you ask them to?

Adam: To a degree they can and then they have to get the police involved and make the arrest. Obviously, they have to do it, also, in a timely manner. They can’t just hold you in the back for a couple of hours waiting on the police to show up. At a point in time you are going to have to be released.

Interviewer: By law, they are allowed to say, “We’re going to need you to come into this room and you’re not allowed to leave the store.” They do have those powers?

Adam: Yes, they do.

Interviewer: Is there a specific offense that, if you ignore them, or brush past them, or push them out of the way, that you’ll have an additional charge against you?

Upgrading to an Assault Charge

Adam: If you make physical contact and push them out of your way, you could be looking at an assault charge also.

Interviewer: What about if you’re outside of the store in the parking lot? They wouldn’t call it jurisdiction, but do they still have the same ability to detain you, if you’re not right on the store premises?

Can You Be Detained Outside of an Establishment?

Adam: At that point and time, I would think that their abilities are going to be a little diminished, but a police officer’s probably going to be there fairly quickly. It’s not as if it takes the police a long time to respond to those types of calls. You might be detained by a police officer at that time.

If You Are Suspected of Theft, Should You Make a Full Confession?

Interviewer: What would be your advice to people that have been accused of stealing and the police come, or even before the police come? Will they be encouraged to explain their side of the story? Should they do that? Should they remain silent?

Adam: I always would advise everyone to remain silent and let your attorney speak for you.

A Theft Charge and Your Miranda Rights

Interviewer: Do Miranda rights come into play when you’re dealing with normal people, or do they apply only with law enforcement and government people?

Adam: The Miranda rights protect you from government agencies, not normal civilians.

Interviewer: It would have no bearing on your case if you said, “The store manager asked me questions, but they didn’t read me my Miranda Rights, so anything I say doesn’t count.” That would be a mistake to think that, right?

Adam: You’re getting into rules of evidence and it depends on what was said. It could be considered hearsay. If you make an admission, that would still be able to get into court, regardless of it being hearsay. It will depend on what you said.

By Adam Hunt

Ohio Criminal Defense Attorney Adam Hunt
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