It’s a sinking feeling: an alarm goes off as you exit a store, or a security guard stops you at the door and asks to check your bags. They are accusing you of shoplifting, and you might be facing arrest.
Security guards are not cops
If this happens to you, try to void panicking. Remember, store security are not police officers. Under Texas law, they have the authority to detain the suspect “in a reasonable manner and for a reasonable time” to investigate. But they do not have police powers to search your person, your belongings or your vehicle. And they cannot arrest you or have you charged with a crime.
What not to do when security accuses you of shoplifting
So, if a security guard ever stops you at a store in New Braunfels, San Antonio or elsewhere in Texas, here is what you do — or, that is, don’t do:
- Don’t admit guilt
- Don’t give permission to the guards to search your belongings
- Don’t turn over allegedly stolen items
- Don’t sign any statements the guards give you
- Don’t forget, if you end up arrested on shoplifting charges, you have the right to a defense attorney
The guards could try to pressure you into admitting that you stole something. You might be tempted to answer their questions or let them search your bags so that you can go home. But cooperating with the investigation against you is not something to take lightly. Depending on the value of the allegedly stolen merchandise, an admission could lead to a misdemeanor, state jail felony or a full-fledged felony. The court could sentence you to pay a heavy fine and even send you to jail.