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Hammer O'Justice
Hammer O'Justice, Attorney
Category: Legal
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Experience:  9 years legal experience
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April 30. 2011 Today I was stopped by a Wal-mart employee

Resolved Question:

April 30. 2011
Today I was stopped by a Wal-mart employee and asked for my receipt because I had a bag of dogfood.
Also, I had an RX, a bag of cat food, and two pounds of butter.
I said nothing to the employee who was more interested in telling me about har kittens, and she never looked at the receipt.
I believe that I don't have to show anyone a proof of purchase in the state of California.
Is there any consumer protection law that covers an incident like this.
I have seen Latinos who routinely show their receipt when leaving a store, and some of them are my college English students.
I'd appreciate an answer,preferably one that I could relay to my students.
I am a paralegal not working in the field, and Lexis-Nexis is not available to me.
I regard this incident as humiliating.
SPQr
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  Hammer O'Justice replied 3 years ago.
Hello.

Legally, you do not have to show a receipt. If the receipt checker is a police officer, then you have a Fourth Amendment right against a search and seizure and can refuse the search because he does not have probable cause of shoplifting. If the receipt checker is a store employee, then he is not a government actor and the Fourth Amendment does not apply. However, when a store employee detains you against your will, they are committing the tort of false imprisonment. Store employees have a limited ability to detain you if they have probable cause to believe shoplifting has occurred, under section 490.5 of the Penal Code:

A merchant may detain a person for a reasonable time for
the purpose of conducting an investigation in a reasonable manner
whenever the merchant has probable cause to believe the person to be
detained is attempting to unlawfully take or has unlawfully taken
merchandise from the merchant's premises.

So that protects them from a false imprisonment tort IF they have probable cause. Otherwise, they do not have cause to detain you. You are allowed to refuse, and most stores are aware of that and instruct Loss Prevention not to further pursue an individual if they refuse to have their receipt checked. That's not to say that there will not be a few employees that may give you a hard time, so if you decide to go the route of refusing to allow your receipt to be checked, as a practical matter you have to be prepared to deal with the occasional employee who is ignorant about the law.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

This answer is very good.

I read about a similar series of incidents in a Smart Money Magazine, page 114, September 2008, by a columnist, Anne Kadet; but information can date quickly, prompting this inquiry to you.

Your answer is very acceptable.

Thank you.

SPQR

Expert:  Hammer O'Justice replied 3 years ago.
Glad I could help. If you could click Accept so I get credit for my answer I'd appreciate it.
Hammer O'Justice, Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 3984
Experience: 9 years legal experience
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