If I was detained for shoplifting but the man in the loss prevention office held me there and then went through my purse, did he have the right to do that?

He knew the stolen items were in the store bag because he went right for them. Was there a need to search my purse and question me about things that were in my purse, even if they didn’t sell them at that particular store?

Asked on September 9, 2015 under Criminal Law, Massachusetts


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

He had the right to do this if you allowed him to do this, as you evidently did. Had you simply walked out and he tried to physically restrain you, he likely would have committed assault and similarly, if he forceably grabbed the purse from you and rummaged through it and you did not allow him to look into it, that would also be crime. Loss prevention staff can call the police on you, but they are not themselves police and cannot keep you from leaving if you are determined to.

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