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Unlawful Arrest

Jun 9, 2008
In most unlawful arrest or imprisonment cases, private security is involved. While the law in California allows for any private person to make a "citizen's arrest", there are restrictions and limited authority to do so. Compared to a police officer, a security officer has far less authority in detaining individuals. When a person has been detained or arrested unlawfully, that person becomes a victim and has a right to be compensated for any physical harm or emotional upset that results.

To protect their property and maintain business peace, most retailers and large property owners hire guard and agents. These are generally uniformed guards from a security service patrolling the location. Their primary function is to ensure certain rules are obeyed (relative to parking and other activities), and they rarely have the chance to capture suspected law violators. When guards detain or arrest a person, they are taking a chance of violating that individual's right to be free of unlawful imprisonment. For instance, if someone is detained by a guard for breaking into a car, which happens to be that individuals own car, that person has the right for compensation for any unlawful use of force in the arrest. In the worst case scenario, a guard can use his weapon and hurt someone that he wrongly believes committed a crime. For this situation, there may be some liability issues for substantial damages and injuries, and the employer and guard may be legally responsible.

Agents in retail security and loss prevention probably come into contact with more suspected law violators than others in the field of private law enforcement. It is not unusual for an "undercover" shoplift agent to catch an alleged shoplifter and follow through with criminal prosecution. If the agent is not reasonably sure that the shoplifter really stole something from a shop, compensation may be given to the victim for emotional and physical harm that he suffered. It is possible for the agent to be immune from liability if there is "probable cause" to believe the suspect did in fact take or attempted to take store merchandise unlawfully. This is called "merchant's privilege" and, although not absolute, it can be called into play to protect a retailer in the even of a lawsuit.

Not only may the retailers and property owners be held responsible for false arrest and imprisonment, they may also be held liable for malicious prosecution of a criminal case if the accused is found not guilty in the end. Sometimes, an inexperienced or overzealous guard or agent will unlawfully apprehend or arrest an individual and then add to the trouble by insisting on a criminal prosecution. If the case goes to court resulting in an acquittal, the falsely accused person has a right to be compensated for the initial detention and arrest, as well as the criminal prosecution. They will not impose liability on the guard or agent until it can be proven that said guard was not acting with probable cause. Because most private law enforcement employees do not have the same training or education as police officers, it is common for these errors to occur.

There is an endless amount of harm that can be caused if someone is falsely arrested or imprisoned. A trial lawyer with experience will assist you in sorting through the truths and the legal system to achieve a fair outcome.
About the Author
As an Orange County personal injury attorneys, Paul W. Ralph has seen his fair share of false imprisonment cases. From wrongful arrest to improper detainment, Mr. Ralph knows that sometimes mistakes are made and the arresting party needs to be held responsible. That's why, as an false imprisonment attorney in Orange County , he works hard to see the victims compensated.
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