Store Searches

Discussion in 'General GWL Questions' started by EagleEye920, Aug 3, 2006.

  1. EagleEye920

    EagleEye920 Member

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    I was out last night with my wife doing a little shopping and she brought up an interesting topic. We walked into a store that had the anti-theft scanner things at the door. As we walked in, there were a few people walking out and the alarm thing went off. We kept walking as we were entering the store.

    As we left, she asked me what would happen if she left the store and the anti-theft thing went off, yet she had not bought anything but something else was setting it off. My sister-in-law actually had a pair of jeans that kept setting off these things off because of some small tag thing that nobody noticed.

    Could the store search her belongings/purse, which may include her firearm? She has a GFL, but would rather not go through an ordeal like this.

    Any thoughts?
     
  2. jrm

    jrm Sledgehammer

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    The store has no right to search anybody for anything. By statute in GA, however (51-7-61), a store has the power to detain a person when the alarm goes off, and such detention "shall be made only in a reasonable manner and only for a reasonable period of time sufficient for any inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the activation of the device." This might mean that a person who refuses to consent to a search can be detained while the police are summoned. It might not, I don't know. And, the statue only applies if there are warning signs conspicuously posted.

    But, even if the police show up, I'm hard-pressed to believe that activation of the alarm, with nothing more, constitutes probable cause to arrest the person. While the police might request permission to search the individual, I don't think they would have a basis for conducting a nonconsensual search, either.
     

  3. Malum Prohibitum

    Malum Prohibitum Moderator Staff Member

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    I would like to give some context to jrm's post. He may have just assumed you knew what he is talking about. Title 51 is a torts title. The statute to which he refers does not really give a power to detain so much as a defense to a lawsuit for false arrest. The statute creates the "reasonable cause."

    You may also want to look at 51-7-60 to get a feel for the purpose of the statute.

    http://www.legis.state.ga.us/cgi-bin/gl ... de=51-7-60


    The result is the same. They can stop you and ask you questions relating to why the device went off. They cannot be unreasonable in either the manner of the detention or the length of time. And they cannot do either unless a proviso is met:

    "This Code section shall apply only with respect to mercantile establishments in which a notice has been posted in a clear and visible manner advising patrons of the establishment that an antishoplifting or inventory control device is being utilized in the establishment."

    I have never seen such a sign that I recall, although now I am going to look for them.
     
  4. mzmtg

    mzmtg Active Member

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    I've thought about this a bit, especially in reference to receipt checkers at walmart and the like.

    First, I always refuse the receipt check. (I paid for it, it's MY stuff now) If the alarm does NOT go off and they think I am shoplifting, I will ask them to get the manager and call the police to handle it. I will wait right there at the front door for everyone to arrive. I will not be going anywhere with anyone other than a police officer.

    If I have made purchases and the alram DOES go off, I will let them look ONLY in the bag(s) to figure out what it was. If that doesn't satisfy them, then we move into the scenario above.

    If I have NOT made any purchases and the alarm DOES go off, we're back to the first scenario of cooperating with police officers only. No matter what the situation, I'll be peaceful, but I won't take any orders from any store employees.
     
  5. Malum Prohibitum

    Malum Prohibitum Moderator Staff Member

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    Does WalMart have the signs?
     
  6. Gunstar1

    Gunstar1 Administrator

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    I don't know, the small expensive items that walmart sells always have to have an associate to get. Besides I don't think that 5'4", 100lb, 75 year old lady at the door is going to even slow down someone leaving. That is what all the cameras are for.

    They also recently announced that shoplifters stealing under $25 will just be warned for the first offense. They want to free up resources to go after the big shoplifters; employees and organized shoplifting gangs/groups.
     
  7. Malum Prohibitum

    Malum Prohibitum Moderator Staff Member

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    That is terrible. That just encourages shoplifters. What brainiac thought up that nonsense?
     
  8. jrm

    jrm Sledgehammer

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    The fact of the matter is that Walmart has much bigger problems with employee theft and "organized" crime, as GS1 mentions, than with individual shoplifters. They have made a conscious decision to concentrate on the big problems instead of spending time on little ones.
     
  9. Malum Prohibitum

    Malum Prohibitum Moderator Staff Member

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    Broken windows. James Q. Wilson

    Allowing the small crimes with impunity or even tolerating them increases the amount of larger crime.

    The much trumpeted decrease in NYC crime was attributed to the borken windows theory, as the police were instructed to target minor disorder.

    There have been numerous critics of this theory, but here is some general reading on the theory and NYC's experience for those interested.

    http://www.umsl.edu/~nestor/Broken%20Windows.htm
     
  10. jrm

    jrm Sledgehammer

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    While there might be some parallels between a large metropolitan police force and a large corporate security deparment, there really is just one type of crime of interest to the latter: theft. And, rather than addressing societal norms, it is just an economic matter for Walmart. I can't disagree with the logic of putting the limited resources available up against the largest sources of theft. What probably was not a good idea was to make that strategy public.
     
  11. Gunstar1

    Gunstar1 Administrator

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    I agree with jrm, it is one thing to shift resources to the largest causes of theft, it is quite another to tell everyone if you shoplift our stuff, make sure it is under $25 so you won't get in trouble when you are caught.
     
  12. kkennett

    kkennett New Member

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    Ultimately, the 'ignore the little stuff' strategy, I believe, is destined to failure. I'm not a big fan of Rudy G., but he did a good thing in NYC with his crackdown on the little stuff, closing the gateway to bigger stuff. For Wal-Mart, as soon as the local crowd gets word that they can get a free $24.99 worth of merchandise, many more will take advantage of this opportunity. Some portion of this crowd, with practice stealing small things, will go on to stealing larger things.

    I believe the economic reality for Wal-Mart may be different in the long term and the short term. In the short term, ignoring the small stuff will help free up resources for finding the internal embezzlers. In the long term, it would be better to be known as 'not the place to shoplift, 'cause they'll ring you up.' When the local crowd gets word that Wal-Mart will ride you all the way to trial over a pack of gum, things may ease off a bit.
     
  13. geaux_tigers

    geaux_tigers Member

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    Once they fully implement RFID they'll be able to identify anything leaving the store; maybe even charge you for it automatically.
     
  14. hall911guy

    hall911guy New Member

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    If the sensors go off, once you are out the front doors, they (store employees) can't stop you. The receipt checkers, even the parking lot security guards can't stop you. The only person who can stop you is a LEO. The one thing I tell my family and friends is, don't EVER stop or turn around for the anti-theft devices. If you go out the front doors, don't go back. 8) 8)
     
  15. geaux_tigers

    geaux_tigers Member

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    It goes WAY beyond today's senors at the doors to detect whether you have something. They eventually will know where every item in the store is from the time it comes off of the truck until the time it walks out the door (actually, they will track it from the time it leaves the manufacturer). They will be able to identify every item somone moving to toward an exit has and whether each product has gone through the checkout process. If the government gets involved in the RFID game, the ID you're carrying could even tell them who you are. Gotta go; the black helicopters now are here for me... :D

    http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.07/shoppers.html
    http://peterthink.blogs.com/thinking/2006/02/rfid_checkouts_.html
    http://www.directionsmag.com/article.php?article_id=629
     
  16. Malum Prohibitum

    Malum Prohibitum Moderator Staff Member

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    Oh, YES THEY CAN!

    I have a thought! :D

    Mitchell v. Walmart Stores, Inc., 223 Ga.App. 328, 477 S.E.2d 631 (1996)


    Plaintiff Edith Mitchell brought this tort action against defendant Walmart Stores, Inc. alleging intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress arising out of a July 18, 1995, incident whereby plaintiff was forcibly stopped as she exited defendant's store. A guard allegedly grabbed plaintiff's shopping bag and commanded her to come with him. Plaintiff was “subjected to a lengthy, unreasonable, and humiliating search[, ··· which search] produced no evidence of stolen property but revealed the presence of a security code unit still attached to one of Plaintiff's purchased items.†The complaint further alleged the intentional torts of assault, battery, and false imprisonment. An amendment alleged loss of consortium on behalf of William L. Mitchell, plaintiff's spouse.

    After discovery, defendant moved for summary judgment on the basis of OCGA § 51-7-60, supporting its motion with the following undisputed facts: Plaintiff, accompanied by her 13-year-old daughter, went through the checkout and purchased several items, including a television remote control, at defendant's store. As she exited, plaintiff passed through an electronic antitheft device. The alarm sounded. Plaintiff “wasn't going to stop because [she] knew [she] didn't have nothing in [her] pocketbook or in [her] bag.†Robert Canady, employed by defendant as a “people greeter†[yeah, she got stopped by one of the greeters!] and security guard, forcibly stopped plaintiff at the exit. Mr. Canady “grabbed [plaintiff's] bag and told [her] to step back inside[, ··· that she] had something in [the] bag. So [plaintiff] stepped back inside.†This security guard removed every item plaintiff had just purchased and ran it through the security gate. Plaintiff affirmed that “one of the items still had a security code thing on it.†An employee named Brenda “told [plaintiff] it could have been that [security code unit], that she [Brenda] forgot to pull it off [at the cash register].†When the security guard finished examining the contents of plaintiff's bag, “he put it on the checkout····†This examination of her bag took ten or fifteen minutes. Plaintiff then “reached over there and got it and went over to the snack bar and [sat] there.†The security guard never touched plaintiff or her daughter and never threatened to touch either of them. No employee of defendant ever told plaintiff she could not leave, once her bag had been checked. Plaintiff never asked to leave but felt like she could not leave. Although plaintiff told an assistant manager that “ ‘[she] need[ed] to see the manager,’ [the assistant] said, ‘he won't come.’ †Plaintiff knew of no circumstances indicating that the detection device was not working properly. Plaintiff was never threatened with arrest. Nevertheless, plaintiff described the security guard's actions in her affidavit as “gruff, loud, rude behavior.â€

    Plaintiff opposed summary judgment, arguing that jury questions remain as to whether the manner and length of her detention were reasonable under OCGA § 51-7-60. The trial court granted defendant's motion, and this appeal followed. Held:

    OCGA § 51-7-60 (1) and (2) provides: “Whenever the owner or operator of a mercantile establishment ··· detains, arrests, or causes to be detained or arrested any person reasonably thought to be engaged in shoplifting ···, no recovery [for false arrest or false imprisonment] shall be had by the plaintiff ··· where it is established by competent evidence ··· [t]hat the plaintiff ··· behaved in such manner as to cause a [person] of reasonable prudence to believe that the plaintiff ··· was committing the offense of [theft by] shoplifting, as defined by Code Section 16-8-14; or ··· [t]hat the manner of the detention or arrest and the length of time during which such plaintiff was detained was under all the circumstances reasonable.†In the case sub judice, plaintiff enumerates the grant of summary judgment, arguing that jury questions remain as to the reasonableness of her detention. We disagree.

    “In the case of a mercantile establishment utilizing an antishoplifting or inventory control device, the automatic activation of the device as a result of a person exiting the establishment or a protected area within the establishment shall constitute reasonable cause for the detention of the person so exiting····†OCGA § 51-7-61(b). Nevertheless, “[e]ach detention shall be made only in a reasonable manner and only for a reasonable period of time sufficient for any inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the activation of the device.†Id.

    In the case sub judice, assuming that defendant's agent was in fact gruff and rude as he forcibly halted her, it is nevertheless undisputed that this was done solely in response to the alarm of the antitheft device. Accordingly, probable cause was established for that forcible stop, and plaintiff's claims for false arrest are without merit. “t makes no difference to ‘reasonable cause’ whether or not negligence on the part of [Walmart's] employee in failing to deactivate the special tag on the [remote control plaintiff purchased] set the device off. What matters is whether the method and time of detention were reasonable within the statutory limitations. Defendant's right to detain is lawful once the device is automatically activated.†Estes v. Jack Eckerd Corp., 184 Ga.App. 98, 99(1), 101, 360 S.E.2d 649.

    Plaintiff was subjected to a ten- or fifteen-minute “detention†in the open, during which the items in plaintiff's shopping bag were individually tested for the presence of the electronic antitheft sensor and after which plaintiff's bag was returned to her and she was free to leave. This procedure was perfectly reasonable. Estes v. Jack Eckerd Corp., 184 Ga.App. 98, 99(1), 101, 360 S.E.2d 649, supra. The manner of plaintiff's detention, whereby defendant's employee never placed a hand on plaintiff's person but only took her shopping bag, and during which plaintiff was never accused of theft, also was reasonable. Naturally, plaintiff was mortified by this episode because she knew she had properly paid for all of her items. Nevertheless, “causing embarrassment is not the same as unlawful imprisonment. Lord v. K-Mart Corp., 177 Ga.App. 651, 653(1), 340 S.E.2d 225 (1986).†Estes v. Jack Eckerd Corp., 184 Ga.App. 98, 99(1), 102, 360 S.E.2d 649, supra. In the case sub judice, there is no evidence that the length of time and the manner of plaintiff's detention were anything but reasonable. Compare Brown v. Super Discount Markets, 174 Ga.App. 223, 477 S.E.2d 839 (1996). Consequently, the defendant mercantile establishment is entitled to the immunity afforded by OCGA § 51-7-60. Similarly, “there was no [unlawful] restraint either by force or fear here, as is necessary to recover [for false imprisonment] under OCGA § 51-7-20. See J.H. Harvey Co. v. Speight, 178 Ga.App. 812, 344 S.E.2d 701 (1986).†Estes v. Jack Eckerd Corp., 184 Ga.App. 98, 99(1), 101-102, 360 S.E.2d 649, supra. It follows that the trial court correctly granted defendant's motion for summary judgment.

    :D
     
  17. Malum Prohibitum

    Malum Prohibitum Moderator Staff Member

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  18. AeroShooter

    AeroShooter New Member

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    Re: Oh, YES THEY CAN!

    I'd like to have our legal eagles expound on this concept.
     
  19. jrm

    jrm Sledgehammer

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    Aeroshooter, I'm not sure what you are asking, but the concept of loss of consortium is that the spouse of a tort victim is himself (or herself) a tort victim if the injury to the primary victim causes the secondary victim not to be able to get his junkyard cleaned.

    For example, wife is in car accident caused by drunk driver, and her injuries make it painful for her to engage in nookie the way she could pre-accident. Not only can wife sue drunk driver for damage to her car, personal injury, etc., but husband can sue drunk driver because he's not getting it anymore. "Loss of consortium" is legalese for "not getting it."
     
  20. Thorsen

    Thorsen New Member

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    Ok jrm, that made me laugh :lol: