My question involves criminal law for the state of: California
My daughter, age 15, and a girl friend, age 17, exited a JC Penny's Store and were confronted by Loss Prevention employees. They were taken to a holding room, and had their cell phones confiscated from them and were not allowed to call a parent. The LP stated they had videotape of them stealing, that they were not allowed to search the girls, but if they did not strip off their clothes the police would come. They were told to remove their pants to give them back the merchandise. There were two LP (Security Guards), the male left the room, and the female turned her back to them. This took place in a holding room, not a bathroom, without any idea if they were being videotaped. The store recovered $87 worth of underwear in a marketable condition (the merchandise was worn over other garments).
After redressing, the girls were then fingerprinted. In this investigation, the girls verbally confessed to the LP of shoplifting. At no time did the police show up, nor were the girls told the police were coming. At no time did the LP try to contact any parent until after all this took place. My wife received a phone call from a caller identifying herself to be Security at JC Penny and informed my wife that they had my daughter and her friend under arrest and would she please come to the store.
After my wife arrived, my daughter was forced to sign three documents including a boilerplate "confession" with $87 written in a blank space and no description of the merchandise. My wife was also made to sign 2 documents. The documents were not fully explained to either my wife or daughter except that the signatures were needed for the girls to be released. The girls were then released to their parents. At no time was there any police officer present. No arrest was made. All of this was finalized at nearly closing time 9:45 p.m., and the store was to close at 10:00. My wife's perception was that the LP wanted to wrap things up and be done with it.
Before leaving they were given three documents. First, a letter informing my daughter that a report was being filed charging her with the crime of petty theft, 484 P.C. Second, a copy of a Civil Demand Notice stating, "I hereby admit to stealing Merchandise valued at $87.00 from the JC Penny Corp.... Third, a paper headed Acknowledgment stating, "..freely admit, without threat or promise of any kind, ...I took possession of the Company, without making payment, ...the following property of the company [lined spaces for description left blank]. I understand the value of these articles is about $87.00. I make this statement voluntarily to [LP names]. Neither my wife or daughter knew what they were signing or why, but it was only to get released and get out of there. My daughter was forced to sign each of these when she just wanted to be set free from being held and detained.
A letter arrived to Parent of [daughter] from a Law Firm representing JC Penny concerning its civil claim against you. Pursuant to Cal Penal Code, Section 490.5 (b) and/or (c), JC Penny may proceed with a civil penalty claim against you. The letter further stated I could settle by sending the Law Firm $250, if payment was not made they would review the file for the possibility of further civil action and may request pre-litigation attorney's fees, and to avoid a higher demand request to please make payment.
- Is this a 4th Amendment violation of unreasonable search?
- Is this a 4th Amendment violation of seizure of the cell phones?
- Was this an unlawful detention of a minor?
- Was the strip search illegal without a police officer?
- Was the intimidation of finger printing without permission or parental presence legal by any statute?
- Is the forced confession of a minor admissible without the parent?
- Should I expect criminal charges to be filed?
- Do I have grounds to contest this civil action in small claims court?