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Stand up for yourself and get arrested anyway!

circuitCity.jpgOut in the Cleveland area, Michael Righi has a little story to tell. On Saturday, he took a visit to a nearby Circuit City to get his sister a gift. On the way out, one of the door bouncers asked for his receipt, to which he said, “no thank you,” and kept walking. This door bouncer and his manager followed Righi out to the parking lot and there was a brief discussion. Righi basically stood his ground and said “show me the law that says you can look in my bag when I’ve left your store.” (My understanding, thanks to a researcher over at Slashdot, is that Ohio law only gives stores an actual right to do a search when there’s probable cause that a theft has taken place.) But rather than getting into such a discussion, the door bouncer and the manager responded by blocking Righi’s father’s car from leaving (Righi was in the backseat — this fact will become relevant shortly).

So Righi hit 911 and called the cops over. After giving Righi a little grief for not showing his receipt, one of the cops asked for Righi’s driver’s license. Righi declined to hand it over to the cops because he wasn’t operating a vehicle. And that’s really the only time the law requires you to give over your license, since it’s a permit for driving the car. But the cops don’t care about these things, so they handcuffed and arrested Righi.

Of course, Righi was right in stating that he didn’t have to turn over his license in this type of situation, so when a charge was eventually filed, he wasn’t hit with a charge of failing to turn over his license — instead, the cops gave him “obstructing official business.” As Righi puts it:

Keep in mind that the official business that I was supposedly obstructing was business that I initiated by calling the police. I called for help and I got arrested.

Welcome to America, Mr. Righi.

(Righi’s write-up of the tale makes for an interesting read, and he’s been updating it as new readers find him via Digg and Slashdot and Boing Boing.)

| Comments (10)


There are two distinct issues here:

(1) Was there an abuse of shopkeeper's privilege?

(2) Was there an abuse of a "stop and identify" law?

I take no stand on #1, but the answer to #2 is unequivocally "yes" (based on the one-sided account, of course).

See the Supreme Court's discussion of -- and reiteration of -- the basic right not to carry ID contained in Hiibel v. Nevada.

I say the guy was just being a dick. Sure, it's a minor — minor — hassle to show your receipt to the guy at the checkout, but come on. Is it really some kind of assault on your freedoms? It's a security feature, meant to help eliminate potential theft. Why the hell not comply? Oh yeah: it's more fun to be a dick and blog about it and try to seem like a martyr for freedom instead of just showing the guy your damn receipt like a normal person.

"if not now, when?"

Jeez, the guy's taking donations!

I agree with Dan, I think the guy was just being a dick.

The guy was being a dick, but Circuit City brought it out in him! I could fall down dead in the aisle at Circuit City, and the help wouldn't notice. Of course, the employees are so clueless, they wouldn't be any use anyway!

Can't we all agree that everyone is being a dick?

Righi's a dick for thinking that a store wanting to verify that he paid for something is some gross invasion of privacy. He's also a dick for calling the cops over and then refusing to cooperate.

Circuit City's a dick for understaffing to such a degree--no way can their skeleton staff monitor a big box store's foot traffic--that they need a Loss Prevention staff to bother paying customers. And they're definitely dicks (and grossly in the wrong) for blocking him in without accusing him of theft.

The cops are clearly dicks for arresting Righi for an imaginary crime.

Too many dicks!

Can we reach a compromise?:

a) Customers realize that big box stores can offer them discount video games and electronics in part because the retailers have mechanisms to reduce theft, i.e. keep losses lower. Thus, big box retailers may want to check your receipt every once in a while. It's nothing personal, Mr. Average Consumer. Circuit City doesn't like doing it either.

b) Big Box retailers need to know the law: you can't detain someone unless you accuse them of shoplifting. None of this "you can't leave but I'm not accusing you" bullshit. If a customer refuses the receipt check, either give them the benefit of the doubt--they've got a freaking bag from your store, after all--or man up and accuse them of theft. If you're wrong and you've pissed off the customer, apologize and either suck up the loss or kiss their ass profusely to keep them thinking of you next time they want a plasma TV.

c) Cops shouldn't be dicks. Dealing with a harmless customer surely must be better than going on another domestic abuse call, right?

That should take care of everything.

For the record, my local Best Buy has a better solution: if it's in a bag, they don't care and don't check. A bag from the store is proof of purchase enough unless the customer trips an alarm on the way out. Brilliant. They check receipts when a customer is rolling out a big screen TV on a dolly. Makes more sense to me than checking everything.

I read this story when I could have been reading War & Peace again. Damn the internet. Damn it!

This guy was just being an ass. I don't like having to dig around in my purse to find the receipt just to show it, but if it keeps the man off my back, then we all have our crosses to bear.

And why in God's name would you call the cops and then not cooperate. That was just a dick move. He was being a dick for the sake of being a dick. If you want the cops to help you, my legal advice would be to not be an ass and let him help you. He wants to see your identification, give it to him - it isn't like you have to slip him a $100 bill with it.

The only thing you did was waste your day and get a record when all you had to do was flash a receipt - it's not like they are going to study it for 3 hours to take a test later - they are going to glance at it and then off you go.

I'm not going to feel sorry for him in the slightest. Yes, the manager and the guard were wrong to follow him out and then physically detain him (which could very well be kidnapping), but this yahoo didn't help his case at all by calling the cops himself (which is OK in and of itself - they were keeping him from leaving and I suppose that he could have felt threatened) and then being a dick once they got there.

I'm from the Cleveland area and I've dealt with Brooklyn cops - they aren't angels, but they don't deserve to be jerked around by someone that calls them for help.

This makes no sense. I would have to agree that Mr. Righi was a dick, but that he also does not seem to be a dick. He gives a lot to charity apparently like a CF foundation, but I'm sure there are CF kids with parents that work at Circuit City that just want to do what they were told and go the hell home without anyone giving them shit about it. Proper irony would be that Mr. Santura has a CF child that misses a treatment because Santura has to spend that day in court. And while Mr. Righi is on his way to being a millionaire, he still has one hand out in back for his defense fund; WTF? Perhaps Mr. Righi really does have a big heart, but alas, one that only pumps buttermilk.

righi after his last trip to circuit city with friends:

"man fuck those door security guys... i dont need to show them my receipt!"

"yeah bro screw those guys!"

"yeah next time i'm just gonna walk right by and tell em to get bent!"


"high five!"