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When might a security guard violate someone’s civil rights at the mall?

On Behalf of | Apr 7, 2024 | Civil Rights

Discussions about the civil rights of individuals often focus on the actions of the state. Obviously, police officers and those who work for the courts are in a position to potentially violate the civil rights of another person.

However, those who have no affiliation with the state can also potentially violate someone’s rights, possibly in an attempt to do their job. Loss prevention professionals, security guards and even managers at retail establishments could potentially violate someone’s civil rights when they suspect an individual of shoplifting.

Professionals could commit false imprisonment

Technically, California does allow people to conduct citizen’s arrests in a few limited scenarios. They must witness the crime themselves or reasonably suspect someone of a felony offense. Otherwise, attempting to detain someone until law enforcement arrives could constitute false imprisonment.

If security professionals did not witness the incident themselves, the decision to forcefully detain someone might lead to allegations of false imprisonment. Wrongfully preventing someone from leaving a business or facility is a violation of that individual’s rights. Not only could the state potentially bring charges against a professional who falsely imprisons another person, but the individual affected by the incident might also have grounds to take legal action in the civil courts.

Either the individual professional or the company that hired them could be liable. While the worker may have made the decision to detain someone on their own, the principle of vicarious liability often passes the culpability of a worker to the business that employs them.

Inaccurate accusations of shoplifting and other criminal offenses can be socially humiliating if other people witness the incident. False imprisonment could lead to numerous challenges for the person affected, potentially including employment consequences. A particularly aggressive security guard or loss prevention professional might cause serious injury or mental trauma to the person that they arrest.

Quantifying the impact of false imprisonment when proving that it occurred could help someone take legal action after a violation of their civil rights. Those who know the law in California are in a better position to assert themselves after experiencing some kind of professional misconduct.