Shopkeepers Privilege Law & Legal Definition


Shopkeepers Privilege refers to a common law privilege given to shopkeepers whereby they can detain a suspected shoplifter on store property for a reasonable period of time. This can be done only if the shopkeeper has reason to believe that the person detained in fact committed, or attempted to commit, theft of store property.

In order to avail the privilege, the proprietor or agent must ensure that:

1. The investigation is conducted near or on the premises; the detention itself should be effected either on the store premises or in the immediate vicinity thereof.

2. The shopkeeper has reasonable grounds to suspect the particular person detained engaged in shoplifting.

3. Only reasonable, nondeadly force is used to effect the detention. Such force being justified when the suspect is in immediate flight or violently resists detention.

4. The detention lasts only for a short period of time necessary to make a reasonable investigation of the facts

In cases where a shopkeeper fails to satisfy the aforementioned requisite conditions, s/he loses the privilege and may be held liable. Likewise if the shopkeeper exceeds the bounds of this privilege and makes an arrest, the lawfulness of his/her action will be determined by the jurisdiction's rules governing arrest by a private citizen.

For example, Lifting of any merchandise article or a book from a library by a minor or an adult provides privilege to the shopkeeper and the person committing the offence will be entertained with imprisonment or fine.