A suspected shoplifting situation took a strange turn in New Jersey when the store clerk pulled a gun on the suspect and ordered him to strip naked. The whole situation was caught on camera.
The incident happened at a Sunoco gas station in Salem, New Jersey, on September 23, 2019. Apparently, a customer who had been caught shoplifting before came into the store.
Suspecting that the man was shoplifting again, the store clerk pulled out an Airsoft gun and told the man to prove that he wasn’t trying to make off with merchandise. Surveillance video shows the customer taking off his shirt, arguing with the clerk, and then taking off his pants.
In the end, the clerk forced the customer to take off all of his clothes, even though there were multiple other people waiting in line.
The strip search revealed no hidden merchandise. When police heard of the altercation, they charged the clerk with aggravated assault for threatening the customer with what appeared to be a legitimate firearm.
Store owners and clerks like the one wielding the Airsoft gun, here, have a limited right to detain and investigate suspected shoplifters. This is known as the shopkeeper’s privilege rule and is meant to strike a balance between the due process rights of suspected shoplifters and store owners who have a right to protect their merchandise.
The precise details of the shopkeeper’s privilege vary from state to state because it was often created through the common law system, where judges presented with unique circumstances have to fashion usable rules for the case and for the future. However, most states agree that store owners can detain suspected shoplifters for a short period of time while the store owner gets police help.
The whole point of giving store owners this privilege is to prevent them from taking matters into their own hands and threatening or hurting shoplifting suspects – which is exactly what this particular store clerk did.
In most states, including Maine, you have legal recourse against store clerks who have reached past their legal rights in their attempt to thwart a suspected shoplifting incident. That recourse is a false imprisonment lawsuit against the clerk and the store.
The compensation that you can recover in a false imprisonment lawsuit includes money damages for loss of reputation and embarrassment – two things that seem especially relevant to someone who was forced to strip naked in front of other store customers at apparent gunpoint.
The criminal defense lawyers at Maine Criminal Defense Group in Portland legally represent people who have been accused of shoplifting in Saco, Biddeford, and the rest of southern Maine. Contact us online or call our law office at (207) 571-8146.
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