In the State of Minnesota, shopkeepers have a limited privilege to arrest or detain based on Minn. Stat. § 629.366 (2018). This statute grants civil and criminal immunity as long as the statutory requirements are met. In short, the shopkeeper must have a reasonable cause to believe the individual is shoplifting to proceed, reasonable force must be used in detention and the detainee must be informed of the purpose of the arrest. The purpose of such an arrest is limited to obtaining ID, investigating possible possession of stolen merchant goods, to inform the police, or to start proceedings against the detainee. This detention may not last more than an hour unless the shopkeeper is waiting to turn the detainee over to the police or if detainee is a juvenile, the shopkeeper may detain the individual until a guardian or police officer arrives. Id.
Minnesota also grants immunity for self-defense based on Minn. Stat. § 609.06 (2018). This immunity allows use of force to “resist or aid another to resist offenses against the person.” Id. at subd. (1) (3). This immunity requires that the defendant is not the aggressor, acted with reasonable belief that he or she was in imminent danger of great bodily harm and there was no possibility of retreat. State v Radtke, 821 N.W. 2d 316, 324 (Minn. 2012). Also, the degree of force used in self defense must “not exceed that which appears necessary to a reasonable person under similar circumstances.” State v Basting, 572 N.W. 2d 281, 286 (Minn. 1997).
A recent case discussed these dueling privileges, In the Matter of P.E.O, Child, (Unpublished) (Minn. Ct. App. 2014). In this case, a teen was detained by a private security guard on suspicion of shoplifting and a scuffle ensued. The parties had differing accounts of what happened during the struggle but both agreed that the detained individual bit the security officer. The detained individual was charged with and found guilty of fifth degree assault and her self-defense privilege was rejected because defendant acted as aggressor and was not in imminent danger of suffering great bodily harm. Id. On appeal, the defendant claimed that the lower court erred in its rejection of her self defense privilege and the evidence was insufficient to convict. The court of appeals affirmed the lower court’s findings and juvenile delinquency adjudication. The court of appeals noted that the security guard did have a right to detain defendant because he had a reasonable suspicion of shoplifting. Id.
The self-defense doctrine may apply to an instance of shopkeeper’s detention as the detention is an offense against the person, that is…assault, battery, false imprisonment, and so on. As discussed above, the shopkeeper’s privilege statute grants immunity for such detentions providing they are done within its confines. In the Matter of P.E.O, Child demonstrates that the application of the self-defense doctrine in this specific context is complex and difficult. If you need assistance in these areas, please seek legal help immediately.
This work includes a simplified overview of legal principles only and is not intended to create an attorney client relationship or serve as a substitute for legal advice.