False Imprisonment

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Many jurisdictions in the United States recognize the common law known as shopkeeper's privilege under which a person is allowed to detain a suspected shoplifter on store property for a reasonable period of time. The shopkeeper has cause to believe that the detainee in fact committed, or attempted to commit, theft of store property. The shopkeeper is allowed to ask the suspect to demonstrate that they have not been shoplifting. The purpose of the shopkeeper's privilege is to discover if the suspect is shoplifting and, if so, whether the shoplifted item can be reclaimed. The shopkeeper's privilege, although recognized in most jurisdictions, is not as broad a privilege as that of a police officer's. Therefore, one must pay special attention to the temporal element: the shopkeeper may only detain the suspected criminal for a relatively short period of time. This is similar to a general right in many jurisdictions, and in limited circumstances, of citizen's arrest of suspected criminals by private citizens. In those jurisdictions, if someone detains an innocent person or unreasonably detains the suspect, uses excessive force to detain the suspect, or fails to notify the police within a reasonable time after detaining the suspect, then the detention may constitute false imprisonment and can result in an award of damages for the illegal detention. In jurisdictions without the privilege, detaining someone may constitute false imprisonment, even if the suspect is detained for doing something illegal without using excessive force and doing something illegal in the process, and the police gets notified within a reasonable time after the suspect is detained.

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