What is false arrest

Routes to finance

Retail businesses are vulnerable to lawsuits based on allegations of false arrest or incarceration. These actions are closely related. False arrest is actually a type of false imprisonment.

State Laws

Many states have passed laws giving retail businesses the right to arrest and stop shoplifters. The laws vary from state to state. In general, you (the dealer) or your employee can arrest and detain a customer if you see him or her stealing goods.

You can also arrest and hold back a customer if you legitimately believe they have stolen something, even if you haven't experienced theft. Once you have made the arrest, you must immediately contact the local law enforcement agency.

False arrest

False arrest means illegally arresting someone or withholding that person's movements. Here is an example.

Bill works as a security guard at an electronics store you own. One day, Bill arrests Jim, a customer, by grabbing Jim's arm and refusing to let him leave the premises. Bill tells Jim that he is being arrested because Bill saw Jim take a headset from a shelf and put it in his pocket.

Suppose Bill can't find a headset in Jim's pocket. Bill has no direct evidence that Jim committed a crime. Jim later filed a lawsuit against Bill (and your store) for false arrest. Jim's lawsuit alleges that he was arrested for no probable cause.

As a defense attorney, Bill could argue the arrest was legal because Bill reasonably believed Jim had stolen a headset.

False arrest by police officers

Police officers have greater authority than private individuals to make arrests. Typically, when a police officer is charged with false arrest, the lawsuit alleges that the officer has exceeded his or her authority.

For example, Steve, a police officer, arrests Alan after learning that Alan is cheating on his wife. Alan's wife is Steve's sister. Steve has no legal authority to arrest his brother-in-law. Alan was able to file a false arrest lawsuit against Steve.

Wrong prison sentence

False imprisonment is the unlawful withholding of another person's movements against that person's will. The reluctance has to be deliberate. False detention can be committed through the use of physical restraint or a physical barrier, such as a blocked corridor or a padlocked door. It can also be committed through verbal threats or intimidation. No physical contact is required.

In the previous example, let's say Bill forces Jim into a small office in the back of the store. Bill doesn't call the local police. He shackles Jim to a desk, even though Bill has no evidence that Jim stole anything, and he holds Jim back for four hours. He'll eventually release Jim if you tell him to. Jim later sued Bill and your business for wrongful imprisonment.

Insurance coverage

False arrest and false imprisonment are willful acts that can violate a person's civil rights. Because of this, they are considered a mistake of intent.

Claims or lawsuits based on false arrest or imprisonment may be covered by a general liability policy under personal and publicity liability.

The definition of personal and advertising violations specifically includes false arrest, detention or incarceration.

For a claim based on false arrest or false imprisonment to be met, all of the following conditions must be met:

  • The wrong arrest or wrong incarceration must come from your business;
  • The breach must be committed during the policy period of your policy.
  • The offense must be committed in the coverage area; and
  • The defendant named in the lawsuit or suit must be insured under your policy