Title 11
Criminal Offenses

Chapter 41
Theft, Embezzlement, False Pretenses, and Misappropriation

R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-41-21

§ 11-41-21. Shoplifting — Enforcement.

(a) Any person reasonably believed to have committed or to be committing the crime of shoplifting as defined in § 11-41-20 shall be subject to detention by a police officer in accordance with § 12-7-1.

(b) Any merchant who observes any person concealing or attempting to conceal merchandise on his person or amongst his or her belongings or upon the person or amongst the belongings of another, transporting merchandise beyond the area within the retail mercantile establishment where payment for it is to be made without making payment for it, removing or altering price tags on merchandise, or switching the containers of merchandise may stop the person. Immediately upon stopping the person, the merchant shall identify himself or herself and state his or her reason for stopping the person. If after his or her initial confrontation with the person under suspicion, the merchant has reasonable grounds to believe that at the time stopped the person was committing or attempting to commit the crime of shoplifting on the premises, the merchant may detain the person for a reasonable time sufficient to summon a police officer to the premises. In no case shall the detention be for a period exceeding one hour. Detention must be accomplished in a reasonable manner without unreasonable restraint or excessive force, and may take place only on the premises of the retail mercantile establishment where the alleged shoplifting occurred. Any person so stopped by a merchant pursuant to this section shall promptly identify himself or herself by name and address. Once placed under detention, no other information shall be required of the person and no written and/or signed statement, except as provided in subsection (c) of this section, shall be elicited from the person until a police officer has taken him or her into custody. The merchant may, however, examine for the purposes of ascertaining ownership any merchandise which is in plain view which the merchant has reasonable grounds to believe was unlawfully taken or otherwise tampered with in violation of § 11-41-20.

(c)(1) A merchant may request a person detained for shoplifting to sign a statement waiving his or her right to bring a civil action arising from the detention in return for a signed statement from the merchant waiving the right to bring criminal charges based upon the alleged shoplifting. Any statement shall state in writing in large print at the top of the form that the person detained has a right to remain silent and a right not to make or sign any statement and a right to call an attorney.

(2) It shall be unlawful to circulate or cause to be circulated any signed statement or the name of any person signing the statement to a person or persons not employed by the retail mercantile establishment which obtained the statement, other than in defense of a legal action arising from the detention. Any person circulating or causing to be circulated this information shall be civilly liable to the person who signed the statement.

(d) For the purposes of this section, “reasonable grounds” includes knowledge that a person has concealed unpurchased merchandise of the establishment while on the premises, or has altered or removed identifying labels on merchandise while on the premises, or is leaving the premises with unpurchased concealed or altered merchandise in his or her possession.

(e) In detaining a person whom the merchant has reasonable grounds to believe is committing the crime of shoplifting, the merchant may use a reasonable amount of non-deadly force when and only when that force is necessary to protect himself or herself, or to prevent the escape of the person being detained or the loss of his or her property.

(f) In any civil action by a person detained under this section against the merchant so detaining him or her arising out of the detention, evidence that the defendant had reasonable grounds as defined in subsection (d) of this section to believe that the plaintiff was at the time in question committing or attempting to commit the crime of shoplifting as defined in § 11-41-20 shall create a rebuttable presumption that the plaintiff was so committing or attempting to commit the crime.

History of Section.
P.L. 1959, ch. 133, § 1; P.L. 1981, ch. 208, § 3; P.L. 1985, ch. 105, § 1.