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Scenario

  1. Alice, a manager at Big Mart, observes Bob leaving Big Mart with three large flat panel plasma screen television sets.

  2. Alice asks Bob to produce his receipt.

  3. Bob refuses.

  4. Alice calls a police officer, Charlotte, to the scene and informs Charlotte that Alice saw Bob leaving the store with store merchandise but did not see Bob pay for it and Bob refused to produce his receipt when questioned.

  5. Charlotte asks Bob to produce his receipt for the items.

  6. Bob refuses Charlotte's request.

  7. Charlotte asks Bob if he paid for the merchandise. Bob responds by stating he is not legally required to produce his receipt nor answer any of Charlotte's questions.

Questions:

  1. Is Bob under any legal obligation to show his receipt to either Alice or Charlotte?

  2. Can Charlotte legally detain Bob?

  3. What, if any, additional facts or evidence must come into play in order for Charlotte to arrest Bob?

  4. In the absence of an arrest, can Charlotte forcibly handcuff Bob and force him into her police car to take him to the police office for questioning?

  5. How does police procedure and the law work in this case?

  • Questions like this don't necessarily have clear yes-or-no answers; it may come down to a judge's decision on whether someone had "probable cause" or "reasonable suspicion" given the circumstances. – Nate Eldredge Jul 12 at 5:26
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  1. No
  2. If she has probable cause, yes. The question is whether "a reasonable amount of suspicion, supported by circumstances sufficiently strong to justify a prudent and cautious person's belief that certain facts [Bob is a thief] are probably true"? Its likely that the answer to this question is yes.
  3. None
  4. No
  5. Charlotte listens to Alice, Charlotte asks Bob questions which Bob may or may not answer. Charlotte can ask Bob to produce the receipt, Bob doesn't have to. Charlotte can ask to search Bob, Bob doesn't have to consent. If Bob tries to leave, if Charlotte has reasonable suspicion the Bob has committed a crime (which she could certainly justify) she may detain him temporarily without arrest. If Charlotte has probable cause to believe that Bob has committed a crime (which she could probably justify) then she can arrest him.
  • I can’t quite see in this case why Charlotte would have any reason to search Bob because the allegedly / possibly stolen TVs are in clear sight. If Alice said “I saw Bob putting a watch in his pocket” that would be different. – gnasher729 Jul 12 at 9:27
  • @gnasher729: IIRC, in the USA an officer is allowed to frisk for weapons to ensure their own safety during a "stop" (which this would be.) But admittedly that's not quite the same thing as a full-on search. – Michael Seifert Jul 12 at 12:08

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