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  1. #1

    Default Unreasonable Search and Detention of a Minor

    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.

    1. Is this a 4th Amendment violation of unreasonable search?
    2. Is this a 4th Amendment violation of seizure of the cell phones?
    3. Was this an unlawful detention of a minor?
    4. Was the strip search illegal without a police officer?
    5. Was the intimidation of finger printing without permission or parental presence legal by any statute?
    6. Is the forced confession of a minor admissible without the parent?
    7. Should I expect criminal charges to be filed?
    8. Do I have grounds to contest this civil action in small claims court?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Posts
    38,867

    Default Re: Unreasonable Search and Detention of a Minor

    [*]Is this a 4th Amendment violation of unreasonable search?
    no


    [*]Is this a 4th Amendment violation of seizure of the cell phones?
    no


    [*]Was this an unlawful detention of a minor?
    no


    [*]Was the strip search illegal without a police officer?
    no and you said it was not a strip search. You said the stolen clothing was worn over other clothing so I would think that she never stripped totally.


    [*]Was the intimidation of finger printing without permission or parental presence legal by any statute?
    that one, not positive. If so, you simply demand them back.


    [*]Is the forced confession of a minor admissible without the parent?
    forced? this confession is admissable regardless of if you believe it was forced or not.


    [*]Should I expect criminal charges to be filed?
    That is up to JC penney but if you refuse to pay a legally proper civil demand, I would think that is a possibility.

    [*]Do I have grounds to contest this civil action in small claims court?
    not a chance

    Did you not notice your daughter is guilty of theft? Why do you not seem concerned about that rather than her rights being violated (they weren't). If your wife did not read what she signed, that is on her. She could have taken the time to read what she was signing and both the girl and your wife could have refused. I would think that the police would have been called and your daughter most likely would have been charged with the crime and still owe the civil penalty.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Michigan
    Posts
    6,808

    Default Re: Unreasonable Search and Detention of a Minor

    You should be having a long talk with your kid about shoplifting. I also hope you make your kid pay you back for the Civil Demand (which will be atleast $200). Too many times, we read about how Mom and Dad paid, and the kid doesn't learn their lesson.....

    Lesson for your wife and kid: Read and documents before signing them. There was likely another document banning the kids from entering ANY JC Penney for a long period of time.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    TN
    Posts
    27

    Default Re: Unreasonable Search and Detention of a Minor

    1. Is this a 4th Amendment violation of unreasonable search?
    -No. The male employee left the room and the other employee turned their back.
    2. Is this a 4th Amendment violation of seizure of the cell phones?
    -No. They are not required to allow phone calls to be made.
    3. Was this an unlawful detention of a minor?
    -No. This was legal detention because they stole from the store.
    4. Was the strip search illegal without a police officer?
    -There was no strip search. There was no "search" at all. The kids willingly gave the clothing back.
    5. Was the intimidation of finger printing without permission or parental presence legal by any statute?
    -Not sure about CA law.
    6. Is the forced confession of a minor admissible without the parent?
    -I don't see a forced confession. Get questions answered before you sign anything.
    7. Should I expect criminal charges to be filed?
    -You said that you received a letter stating that "a report was being filed charging her with petty theft." Sounds like they are sending the paperwork in to the DA to pursue charges. That would explain the fingerprinting.
    8. Do I have grounds to contest this civil action in small claims court?
    -No. They have the right under the law to seek these charges. Pay it or you'll have to go to court.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Michigan
    Posts
    6,808

    Default Re: Unreasonable Search and Detention of a Minor

    When you refer to Civil Action, I am assuming that is the Civil Demand Letter. You can try to protest it, or not pay it, but I don't recommend it.

    If you don't pay the Civil Demand:
    - You can be sued for more money than the demand is for. This is because now the store can add in legal fees and court costs.
    - Your credit history will be affected.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Inland Empire
    Posts
    1,410

    Default Re: Unreasonable Search and Detention of a Minor

    It just boggles my mind. The search was unreasonable, but teen perp had the undies in her undies. How in the heck was LP supposed to get the undies back

    What is unreasonable here is that this teen perp's dad is crying about the kid being mistreated. The kid is a thief!!! What are they supposed to do ~ invite the terp (teenperp) for over for tea and cookies while they exchange pleasantries about getting the undies back???

    I agree, you are too busy for this ~ have the terp pay the demand!!!!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Posts
    138

    Default Re: Unreasonable Search and Detention of a Minor

    Consult with a civil rights attorney. Not everyone here who tells you her civil rights have not been violated is an expert in constitutional law and civil rights law. Some violations may have occured. if so, you may have some leverage over the company to drop criminal charges and civil demand. it may be woth it.

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