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Minnesota Shoplifting Detain/Restrain Laws?

Does anyone know the laws regarding detaining/restraining suspected shoplifters? I walked out of the mall tonight and found three Younkers loss-prevention staff holding a woman face-down in the snow, with their knees on her back attempting to handcuff her while she was telling them she couldn’t breathe.

They told me to go away, as they were Younkers loss prevention and dealing with a shoplifter. I told them they were forcibly holding a woman in a t-shirt face-down into the snow with their knees on her back, and there was no way in hell I was leaving because I’m calling the cops and giving a statement of excessive force.

I tried some searches to see if this is legal, or would qualify as excessive force or false-imprisonment, but couldn’t find any useful information (most of the web just says the store can “detain” a shoplifter, but doesn’t say what that means or how far that goes).

So, is this behavior totally legal, or total bullshit? For the record, she probably was shoplifting, as I found a pile of designer jeans a few feet away from her, but that also means she had already dropped all of the stolen goods. When I reported what I saw to the cop, he helpfully added “Well, I know her, and she’s a frequent shoplifter, and given the amount she stole, it’s probably felony shoplifting,” which somehow implies that it’s okay to mash her face into the ground??? I’m confused. Anyone have any legal opinions? (or bitching is good too – I’m always up for some good bitching).

43 Comment(s)

  1. I stole a pack of gum when I was a kid. Blamed it on my sister and we both got in trouble. Where’s the justice in that?

    jwood13 | Dec 27, 2013 | New Comment
  2. Hey this robber is only wearing a t-shirt, let her go!

    Daffy Cat | Dec 27, 2013 | New Comment
  3. I have nothing much useful to say except Thank You for stopping and following your conscience.

    hbh1 | Dec 27, 2013 | New Comment
  4. A shoplifter was killed by an aggressive grocery store security guard in Milwaukee when I was a kid; he knelt on their neck to restrain them.

    Thank you, too, for stopping. | Dec 27, 2013 | New Comment
  5. Perhaps the rules have changed. When I worked at Best Buy in Fargo, there was a little room for shoplifters, where they just sat until law enforcement showed up. We weren’t allowed to restrain them in any way. I also worked for Younkers in Superior for a short stint, and if somebody was knowingly walking out the door with stolen merchandise they could only be questioned.

    Build High, Brainerd | Dec 27, 2013 | New Comment
  6. 2013 Minnesota Statutes: 609.06 Authorized Use of Force

    It does appear to be legal under Minnesota law. The question is what is the definition of “reasonable force”. -- discuss …

    Not having been there and witnessing it firsthand, I will refrain from making a judgement on the issue.

    Shane | Dec 27, 2013 | New Comment
  7. Every retail job I’ve ever had told me not to physically stop any shoplifters (and some even told me I’d be fired if I tried). I’d be curious to know what Younkers official shoplifting policy is.

    BadCat! | Dec 27, 2013 | New Comment
  8. You were told not to detain shoplifters because you weren’t hired to detain shoplifters. These people were. Although this may have looked bad to you this person decided to commit a crime and then attempted to evade legal capture. Had she stood there and allowed them to cuff her once she was caught you would not have seen what you saw. It does not sound to me like her behavior or treatment deserves any sympathy in this case. Of course, my sister is loss prevention for a local company and I hear the stories about how common shoplifting is and how willing those that are caught are to hurt someone else to get away.

    waferdog | Dec 27, 2013 | New Comment
  9. Looks like the law allows for use of force to keep items from being stolen, but Younkers had already recovered their stolen items. Can you still use force to detain someone to hold them for the cops?

    BadCat! | Dec 27, 2013 | New Comment
  10. Yes you can, especially if it qualifies as a felony.

    waferdog | Dec 27, 2013 | New Comment
  11. When I worked in retail, loss-prevention employees had policies that they couldn’t touch the shoplifter unless that person made physical contact first. I’m not sure if that was based in law or just a way to not get sued. If there aren’t laws dictating, there really should be. Police officers are thoroughly trained in techniques for subduing suspects without causing injuries. A lot of retail loss prevention folks are hired with no special training or education, and the potential for causing injuries is quite high in situations as you described. Also, even though other commentators on this post seem to disagree, I sure don’t think retail security should be determining what’s felony-level shoplifting and what level of force is necessary. They’re not substitutes for well-trained police officers.

    Tom | Dec 27, 2013 | New Comment
  12. Anyone can determine what felony theft is:

    “…if the value of the property or services stolen is more than $500 but not more than $1,000…”

    adam | Dec 28, 2013 | New Comment
  13. Eh, I have no sympathy for those who steal. Being pinned down in the snow while being handcuffed is hardly execessive IMO.

    Cutting off a hand, slightly excessive.

    ian | Dec 29, 2013 | New Comment
  14. Also, I’ve detained a thief before. Probably gave him some bumps and bruises when I dragged him into a Superior Street alcove and pinned him down… Cops were really nice and we all had a laugh when the bike that he just stole was worth 1/20th the value of the stolen full suspension race bike that he showed up on and ditched minutes before.

    ian | Dec 29, 2013 | New Comment
  15. Also, if you have the breath to say that you can’t breathe, you can breathe ;)

    Again, I have absolutely no sympathy for thieves.

    ian | Dec 29, 2013 | New Comment
  16. Also, if you have the breath to say that you can’t breathe, you can breathe

    Not necessarily, you might have enough breath left to say those words but not be able to draw more breath or adequate breath.

    I don’t think anyone here is defending people who shoplift, but even among people who are trained in administering restraints, deaths are not unknown from this restraint, and I’d imagine the rate would be higher from those who have little/no training.

    Potentially accidentally killing someone in order to prevent them from stealing from an outlet that builds into its operating costs a profit margin sufficient to cover those losses seems a bit much.

    I understand the emotion and outrage, especially when it is your job to stop that theft.

    edgeways | Dec 30, 2013 | New Comment
  17. Exactly my point -- thank you Edgeways.

    Saying “I can’t breathe” doesn’t necessarily mean “There is no oxygen passing into my lungs.” It may be said by someone who is experiencing medical distress, such as asthma attack, heart attack, etc. People have been killed by incorrectly/aggressively restraining them. Is it worth possibly injuring/killing someone in order to recover some stolen goods? Is it worth possibly injuring/killing someone when you’ve already recovered the stolen goods?

    BadCat! | Dec 30, 2013 | New Comment
  18. From my experience, they will say any and everything possible. If you are holding them down, they can’t breathe, if you have them by the arm, the will tell you that you are breaking it. They chose to steal, they got what they deserved.

    From my experience with extended family members, the people shoplifting stuff like designer clothes are the same ones jacking/jumping/holding up pedestrians, robbing homes, breaking into cars, etc.

    A couple months in jail for felony shoplifting is a couple months of them off the street.

    Thug life is overrated.

    ian | Dec 30, 2013 | New Comment
  19. Isn’t a better question: Is it worth potentially dying to steal stuff from somewhere? Why are some of you putting the responsibility on the store employees? If someone got shot breaking into a home over to steal some jeans, would you still blame the homeowner? If you choose to be a criminal and you get sent to prison, injured, or heaven forbid killed, that is on you. It is not on those trying to stop you. Frankly the person got what they deserved in my book. Why let them run away even though they dropped the jeans? Do any of us know that is all they had? And even if it was, you would let them leave so they can just do it again? Personal responsibility. You do the crime, you get what’s coming.

    Jadiaz | Dec 30, 2013 | New Comment
  20. But that’s the main question -- what is reasonable force? If someone was running out of Younkers, and an employee followed them out and shot them in the back of the head, I think even the most cynical here would agree that it was excessive. But between “letting them run away scott-free” and “killing them to protect your property”, there is a large grey area. How much force is allowed? When does “reasonable force” become “excessive force”?

    BadCat! | Dec 30, 2013 | New Comment
  21. They should be using force adequate to subdue, and no more. Anything in excess of that is either incompetence or revenge. Just because someone is stealing from you doesn’t give you the right to assault them.

    piker | Dec 30, 2013 | New Comment
  22. Excessive force = dead, permanent physical disability.

    Broken fingers/rib or two, totally acceptable IMO.


    Have a happy new year!

    ian | Dec 30, 2013 | New Comment
  23. This is one of the issues where I don’t fit into the hippie stereotype. I am not a follower of the bible, but take “Thou shalt not steal” seriously.

    ian | Dec 30, 2013 | New Comment
  24. Ok, so 10 year old kid walks into a store and grabs a pack of Pokémon and heads to the door. The clerk notices him, so tells the kid to stop, but the kid bolts. The clerk comes after him, grabs the pack and tries to drag the kid back to the store. The kid struggles, but the clerk is able to do a wrist lock dislocating the kids thumb in order to get him back to the store. So you’re saying this is legit?

    BadCat! | Dec 30, 2013 | New Comment
  25. Sigh. The problem is, the use of force by nonspecialists (and by nonspecialists, I mean anyone not employed by the State in military or police functions) is risky.

    This is the story of university cops and grocery store employees kneeling on the neck of a shoplifter to subdue him, killing him:,7540616

    Here is another story from last year:

    Milwaukee is rocking dangerous — because customers, rent-a-cops, and store employees feel empowered to kill shoplifters, apparently. | Dec 30, 2013 | New Comment
  26. When I worked retail, we were told explicitly to never touch. Ever. Liability concerns were way too high to have a $7/hr. hero instigate a multi-thousand dollar lawsuit.

    adam | Dec 31, 2013 | New Comment
  27. BadCat: 10 year old -- nah. 16 year old, sure.

    Kids/adolescents who grow up stealing, knowing they could get away with it, often will eventually move up to armed robbery/b&e (have plenty of examples). If you have trained loss prevention staff, I say use them.

    Stopping a shoplifter/thief instead of letting them walk might mean they think twice before stealing again.

    ian | Dec 31, 2013 | New Comment
  28. And yet, I don’t know that 16 year olds have rights relative to the police that 10 year olds don’t have, as well. | Dec 31, 2013 | New Comment
  29. “Kids/adolescents who grow up stealing, knowing they could get away with it, often will eventually move up to armed robbery/b&e”

    At this point I have to wonder if you’re trolling us. Are you seriously going to call stealing Pokémon the “gateway drug” to robbing banks??

    BadCat! | Dec 31, 2013 | New Comment
  30. Watched a progression from candy/pop to clothes to stereos to vehicles to armed robbery to home invasions.

    So, yeah… IMO it is a gateway. Getting away with it over and over again just led to bigger scores.

    Maybe getting held by a store worker at the age of 16 and going on probation would helped deter them from deciding to start stealing bigger items and eventually get into violent crime…

    Sorry, I do not have any remorse/respect for those who steal/jump/rob.

    ian | Jan 1, 2014 | New Comment
  31. How often would you say this progression happens? Do you have statistics to back up your claims?

    BadCat! | Jan 1, 2014 | New Comment
  32. Sure let them run away so they can do it again.

    I think if you steal you pay the price. You give up your rights by breaking the law. I don’t care if it’s a cop on the kneeling on them or a store security person. Or a citizen who is outraged. All the civil liberty crap gets old when people break the law constantly.

    You can whine and say but they have a hard life and need things they can’t afford. Too bad … go live in a dumpster.

    Bayfieldwis | Jan 1, 2014 | New Comment
  33. If you have no rights when caught stealing, then it is legal for a clerk to cut off your hands if you’re caught.

    BadCat! | Jan 1, 2014 | New Comment
  34. Unfortunately getting involved like you did is a great way to get yourself in jail. The best thing to do is pull out your camera or cell phone and record. I recommend OpenWatch ( which will automatically record, encrypt, and upload the video before any one can tamper with it or delete it.

    Police are not supposed to be punishing people for shoplifting or any other crime. Innocent until proven guilty. Even with that aside, having your back stomped on and face shoved in the snow is definitely cruel and unusual and unconstitutional.

    I would suggest ian and Bayfieldwis move to Saudi Arabia because I’m ashamed to have you as neighbors.

    Aldin | Jan 1, 2014 | New Comment
  35. “having your back stomped on and face shoved in the snow is definitely cruel and unusual and unconstitutional.”

    This had nothing to do with constitutionality. Also, they had every right to restrain this person in this manner if they were resisting a lawful arrest.

    waferdog | Jan 2, 2014 | New Comment
  36. BadCat: Watched it firsthand… So, don’t have scientific statistics to back it up.

    But, the ones who started out at the local convenience store and progressed to bigger ticket items (department store/electronics/designer clothes/etc) pretty much have all have ended up in con college for violent crime.

    I’m not saying it is the only factor, but getting away, even if caught red handed time and time again, did lead to moving on to bigger targets/scores.

    I’m not saying “kill shoplifters,” but detaining them, especially when you have a staff trained for it is A-OK in my book. If it involves pinning someone in the snow while cuffing/detaining them, boo-hoo.

    Again, no sympathy for those who steal.

    ian | Jan 2, 2014 | New Comment
  37. Personal experience and anecdotal evidence does not qualify as scientific proof. Correlation does not mean causation.
    To counter your personal experience, I can add that 100% of the people I know who shoplifted when young did not end up as career criminals.

    BadCat! | Jan 2, 2014 | New Comment
  38. Can I play, too? “100% of the people I have known who shoplifted have eaten breakfast at least once.” | Jan 2, 2014 | New Comment
  39. Should every theft result in physical violence? Is it tackle first, then ask questions? And if so, what range of violence is legal? What range is ethical?
    What about the 80-year-old woman whose hip would likely shatter if tossed to the ground, or the mentally disabled man who does not understand the implications of theft, or perhaps the musician who unintentionally left a bar with someone else’s equipment?
    It’s far too easy to sit back and think “theft = bad”, but not think of the actual real-world scenarios.

    BadCat! | Jan 2, 2014 | New Comment
  40. Glad that some of you are ashamed to have me as a neighbor!

    Wonder if the neighbor lady who was screaming for help while her husband was beating the shit out of her is ashamed of me as a neighbor? While the whole neighborhood watched, I grabbed a golf club and persuaded her attacker that it would be in his best interest to take his hands off of her. Suppose I should have just let him continue to beat the crap out of her out in the open for five more minutes until the cops came. You know, innocent until proven guilty!

    Guess I should just move somewhere less progressive.

    Oh, and happy New Year PDD!

    ian | Jan 2, 2014 | New Comment
  41. Determining whether excessive force was used in this particular case is unfortunately futile without video or detailed testimony, but it’s even more unfortunate how people can develop such deep prejudice toward both shoplifters and loss prevention workers and side strongly and blindly one way or the other.

    If the shoplifter did not resist, we should all be able to agree that there would be no reason for her to be on the ground with knees on her back. That would be excessive force. But we don’t know what she did when confronted by the loss prevention staff, so it should be difficult for any of us to render an opinion.

    It’s fine to disagree about whether loss prevention people should touch or physically restrain alleged thieves, but to suggest anything goes when dealing with thieves is just as idiotic as blindly assuming all shoplifters peacefully drop to their knees and put their hands in the air on command.

    For all we know the loss-prevention staff tried verbally stopping the alleged thief and the thief attacked. For all we know the alleged thief never actually stole something and the loss-prevention people were looking to rough someone up. We don’t know the facts. So, if you have a strong opinion on this one you are automatically wrong.

    What BadCat did in this situation, however, is the correct thing to do. She didn’t intervene, she observed. Loss prevention people have no right to tell witnesses to bug off. If the loss prevention staff is behaving appropriately, witnesses should be appreciated.

    Paul Lundgren | Jan 2, 2014 | New Comment
  42. Even if I did have video, I think we’d still be arguing about appropriate vs. excessive force. It’s frustrating to have laws that are so open to human interpretation.

    BadCat! | Jan 2, 2014 | New Comment
  43. I am about 90% sure that this week’s “Property Crimes Wanted Person of the Week” is the chick I saw getting busted for shoplifting.

    BadCat! | Mar 21, 2014 | New Comment

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