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Georgia Law on Shoplifting False Arrest

Georgia Shoplifting Laws Set Clear Limits on Detention: Those Who Break The Rules May Face False Arrest Charges

Georgia shoplifting law 51-7-60 sets clear mandates that store owners, employees, and private security companies are required to adhere to, without exception. Failure to do so may result in charges of false arrest, false imprisonment, or, in extreme cases, wrongful death.

There are two parts to this section of law. The first establishes probable cause. Suspicion of shoplifting must be based on reasonable factors, such as direct observation, activation of a security alert, or suspicious behavior. The second part of this section of Georgia law, however, requires that the suspect be detained or arrested in a reasonable manner.

This means that a store employee, owner, or representative, including security guards, may not shout at you. Intimidation and threats (including implied threats) against yourself or your family are not allowed. Restraints, such as handcuffs, ties, etc., are not permitted. Physical threats, refusal of requests to call police, forced searches, and interrogations are also forbidden. Shoplifting suspects may not be held against their will and may not be locked in a storeroom to prevent leaving and employees, owners, or hired security may not use unnecessary force to detain a person suspected of theft.

Atlanta Georgia Wrongful Death: Was it False Arrest Based on Illegal Use of Force?

But what constitutes “unnecessary force”? Depending on the outcome of an ongoing investigation of a recent incident involving WalMart employees and a suspected shoplifter, it may be a chokehold. According to Atlanta’s WSB-TV, a man suspected of stealing 2 DVD players was stopped in a DeKalb County WalMart parking lot by two store employees and a private-hire security guard. An altercation ensued and when police arrived, the three employees were on top of the suspect, Vidal Calloway, who was unresponsive and bleeding from the nose and mouth. He was later pronounced dead at the Dekalb Medical-Hillandale Hospital. The initial police report stated that the security guard had put Mr. Calloway in a chokehold, instructing him to “tap if he couldn’t breathe”, but the medical examiner will have the final determination of cause and manner of death. The wife of the deceased man is convinced that unreasonable force was used against her husband. “He didn’t deserve to die over a DVD player,” she stated.

WalMart terminated the security guard’s services and suspended the other two employees with pay until investigation is complete. Walmart’s spokesperson Dianna Gee issued a statement that “Associates are trained to disengage from situations that would put themselves or others at risk” but did not wish to speculate until the investigation was complete. She also said that if WalMart acted inappropriately, the proper actions would be taken at the proper time.

Stores have rights, but they cannot overreach an individual’s basic civil rights. False imprisonment can have far reaching consequences, emotionally, physically, and financially. Metro Atlanta residents in the Sandy Springs/Dunwoody area who have been falsely arrested or lost a loved one who suffered wrongful death because of an illegal detention should contact a qualified metro Atlanta false arrest lawyer committed to protecting Fourth Amendment Rights, to discuss the details of the wrongful imprisonment.