Shopkeeper Rights to Detain Shoplifters

by Joseph C. Maya on Aug. 11, 2017

Criminal Criminal  Misdemeanor 

Summary: A blog post about what shopkeepers can do when faced with a shoplifter.

For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney, please call the offices of Maya Murphy, P.C. today at (203) 221-3100 or Joseph C. Maya, Esq. at

Connecticut law defines larceny as occurring when a person wrongfully takes, obtains, or withholds the property of another, with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property, or to appropriate it to a third person. (Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 53a-119).  When an individual attempts to shoplift (commit larceny by theft of wares or goods of a merchant from that merchant’s establishment), the law provides for the merchant, or an authorized employee, to detain and question a suspected shoplifter in order to prevent theft.  Connecticut General Statutes, Section 53a-119a provides the rights and responsibilities of both the merchant, and the alleged shoplifter.

Under Connecticut General Statutes, Section 53a-119a, any owner, authorized agent or authorized employee of a retail mercantile establishment, who observes any person concealing, or attempting to conceal goods displayed for sale within the establishment, or observes the transporting of such goods from the premises without payment, may question the alleged perpetrator as to his or her name and address and, if such owner, agent or employee has reasonable grounds to believe that the person being questioned was attempting to commit, or was committing larceny of such goods on the premises, may detain the alleged perpetrator for a time sufficient to summon a police officer to the premises.  The merchant’s belief upon “reasonable grounds,” is defined as: knowledge that a person has concealed unpurchased merchandise belonging to the establishment, while on the premises, or has altered or removed identifying labels on such merchandise while on the premises, or is leaving the premises with such unpurchased, concealed or altered merchandise in his or her possession.

Any person subject to questioning by the owner, authorized agent or authorized employee pursuant to the provisions of Connecticut General Statutes, Section 53a-119a, has the responsibility to promptly identify himself or herself by name and address.  However, no other information is required of such person until a police officer has taken him or her into custody.

It is not uncommon for an individual, who has been questioned by a merchant regarding shoplifting, to commence a lawsuit against the merchant regarding the accusatory treatment that he or she received.  However, in any civil action by a person detained by the merchant, against the person so detaining him or her, or the principal or employer of such person arising out of such questioning or detention by any owner, evidence that the owner had reasonable grounds to believe that the accused was, at the time in question, committing or attempting to commit larceny shall create a rebuttable presumption that the accused was actually committing or attempting to commit larceny.

If you have been charged with a larceny related offense, contact the experienced criminal law attorneys today at 203-221-3100, or by email at  We have the experience and knowledge you need at this critical juncture. We serve clients throughout Connecticut and all of Fairfield County, from Greenwich and Stamford to Westport and Bridgeport.

Source: C.G.S. § 53a-119a

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