Use of Interrogation
When the police interrogate you, they must inform you of certain rights (remain silent, attorney, etc.), but not all interrogations are performed by police. Sometimes interrogations are performed by store employees, your boss, or even a neighbor, and they aren’t required to inform you of your constitutional rights.
However, even though the police aren’t conducting these interrogations, and you haven’t been informed of your rights, confessions obtained in this manner can still be used against you in a criminal trial.
Let’s imagine you are shopping with a friend, and unbeknownst to you, the friend decides to shoplift. As you are leaving the store, an employee grabs you both and takes you to an interrogation room.
Part of their interrogation includes a “Civil Recovery Form” where they list the things that they suspect you or your friend of taking and have you sign it. At the bottom of this form is a small disclaimer that says that you understand that this form “will be used in criminal prosecution.”
It amounts to a written confession and is very persuasive to a jury.
Officers, not Police
As merchants, they do have a limited power to detain you if they suspect you of shoplifting, but you’re better off demanding that they call the police instead of letting a retail employee convert your words into a report, coerce you into signing it, and then letting a jury of your peers decide your fate upon hearing it.
The Loss Prevention Officers are not Police Officers. They are merely private citizens and you do not have to talk to them any more than you have to talk to a neighbor that accuses you of stealing his newspaper. On that same note, your neighbor doesn’t have to inform you of your constitutional rights before attempting to interrogate you.
The person in the best position to protect your rights is you. Know your rights and do not be afraid to exercise them regardless of whether it is a retail employee, your boss, or the police. After identifying yourself; Remain Silent, Do Not Consent to Searches, and Demand Your Attorney Be Present During Any Questioning.
–Authored by Matthew L. Harris, Esq.,
Matthew Harris Law, PLLC – Criminal Law Division
1001 Main Street, Suite 200, Lubbock, Texas, 79401-3309
Tel: (806) 702-4852 | Fax: (800) 985-9479