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Security guards can hold suspects

In Indiana, private security guards can detain people for certain crimes in stores and movie theaters. But, a criminal defense against these crimes may be stronger when these guards do not follow legal procedures and respect rights.

A store owner or agent, such as a security guard, may detain a suspected shoplifter and request that they identify themselves. However, they must have probable cause to believe that person engaged in or will shoplift in the store.

The guard must verify the suspect's identification and determine whether they possess any unpaid store merchandise. Store employees should contact the police, and any person interested in their welfare such as a minor's parents.

Suspects under 18-years-old cannot be asked to make a statement acknowledging guilt or waive any of their rights before they can have a meaningful conversation with their parent, custodian or guardian. Minors have the right to remain silent until they have this conversation.

Detention must be reasonable and last for a reasonable period. A suspect cannot be held after the police arrive or for over two hours. A security guard can use only reasonable force for this offense and situation.

Movie theaters may also detain a suspect who illegally recorded a movie. The theatre owner or employee can detain the suspect and ask for and verify their identification. The owner or employee can confirm whether the suspect has audiovisual recording equipment and seize any unauthorized recordings of a movie or other audiovisual presentation.

The theatre must notify police that they detained the suspect. The detention should be reasonable and may not last longer than the arrival of police or for over two hours.

Stores and movie theaters can face a lawsuit if they do not comply with these procedures. Any information gathered illegally, such as questioning a minors before they speak with their parents, may be excluded from a criminal prosecution.

A criminal charge of shoplifting or movie piracy may have serious and long-term consequences. A who is arrested and charged with these crimes should seek prompt legal representation to assure that their rights are protected.

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