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Informer: Law professor says policy not ‘substantial detention’

Last Modified: Tuesday, November 06, 2012 6:28 PM

By Andrew Perzo / American Press

When Walmart stores check your receipt, it is a violation of Article 215 of the Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure. Sam’s Club can do it because, I understand, it’s a club. But what makes Walmart think they’re above the law? What can a person do to complain about the practice?

A Walmart spokeswoman told The Informer that the company trains its workers to be courteous and to only ask for receipts when they see customers carrying unbagged items or when an anti-theft tag triggers an alarm.

LSU law professor Bill Corbett said the moments-long checking of receipts under those criteria doesn’t run afoul of Article 215 — titled “Detention and arrest of shoplifters” — because it doesn’t constitute “a substantial detention for questioning.”

Under Article 215, store employees “may use reasonable force to detain a person for questioning on the merchant’s premises, for a length of time, not to exceed sixty minutes, unless it is reasonable under the circumstances that the person be detained longer, when he has reasonable cause to believe that the person has committed a theft of goods held for sale by the merchant, regardless of the actual value of the goods.”

Additionally, the law says that the triggering of an anti-theft alarm “shall constitute a sufficient basis for reasonable cause to detain” someone — as long as the store has posted “sufficient notice” of anti-theft tag use.

For more information on store policies or to offer feedback, call 800-WALMART.

Online: www.walmart.com.

Board behavior depends on bylaws

When a business has bylaws, can the owner throw the bylaws out? When a church has bylaws, can the elder and deacons and trustees throw the bylaws out?

Meg Casper, a spokeswoman for the Louisiana Secretary of State’s Office, said officials, faced with such limited information, could offer no useful response to the questions.

“This is a legal question,” she wrote in an email. “Our staff would need to be provided a specific set of business/church bylaws to review and a specific set of circumstances in order to properly answer.”

She suggested the reader contact the secretary of state’s commercial division. The email address is commercial@sos.la.gov; the phone number is 225-922-0330; and the fax number is 225-922-2473.

The mailing address is Louisiana Secretary of State, P.O. Box 94125, Baton Rouge, LA 70804-9125.

Excerpts from state laws governing the set-up of bylaws:

• For businesses, R.S. 12:28 — “Unless the articles provide otherwise, the board of directors may make and alter by-laws, including by-laws fixing the directors’ qualifications, classifications, number or term of office, or fixing their compensation, subject to the power of the shareholders to change or repeal any by-laws so made.”

For nonprofits, R.S. 12:222 — “The members or the directors of a corporation may make, amend and repeal the bylaws of the corporation, subject always to the power of the members to change the action of the directors.

“Unless the articles or bylaws provide otherwise, the powers hereby conferred shall be exercised by a majority vote of the directors or the voting members of the corporation, as the case may be.”

Online: www.sos.la.gov; www.legis.la.gov.

•••

The Informer answers questions from readers each Sunday, Monday and Wednesday. It is researched and written by Andrew Perzo, an American Press staff writer. To ask a question, call 494-4098, press 5 and leave voice mail, or email informer@americanpress.com

Posted By: Bob Stump On: 11/8/2012

Title: Article 215 Stops

Store employees can quickly get in over their head if the stop the wrong person. If that person has committed no offense, he or she can legally resist an attempted detention. That, in turn, can lead to huge problems for the employees and the employer. Most retailers have abandoned trying to play mall cop on account of the legal culpability for civil damages and criminal charges. Since such Article 215 stops have to be effected immediately without the benefit of a thorough investigation first, they are simply beyond the capability of the average story employee.

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