T Nation

Arrested For Not Showing License


#1

Michael Righi was arrested in Ohio over the weekend after refusing to show his receipt when leaving Circuit City. When the manger and 'loss prevention' employee physically prevented the vehicle he was a passenger in from leaving the parking lot, he called the police, who arrived, searched his bag and found he hadn't stolen anything.

The officer then asked for Michael's driver's license, which he declined to provide since he wasn't operating a motor vehicle. The officer then arrested him, and upon finding out Michael was legally right about not having to provide a license, went ahead and charged him with 'obstructing official business' anyways.

Read the story as related by Michael.

[i]Today was an eventful day. I drove to Cleveland, reunited with my father's side of the family and got arrested. More on that arrested part to come.

For the labor day weekend my father decided to host a small family reunion. My sister flew in from California and I drove in from Pittsburgh to visit my father, his wife and my little brother and sister. Shortly after arriving we packed the whole family into my father's Buick and headed off to the grocery store to buy some ingredients to make monkeybread.

(It's my little sister's birthday today and that was her cute/bizare birthday request.)

Next to the grocery store was a Circuit City. (The Brooklyn, Ohio Circuit City to be exact.)

Having forgotten that it was my sister's birthday I decided to run in and buy her a last minute gift. I settled on Disney's "Cars" game for the Nintendo Wii. I also needed to purchase a Power Squid surge protector which I paid for separately with my business credit card. As I headed towards the exit doors I passed a gentleman whose name I would later learn is Santura.

As I began to walk towards the doors Santura said, "Sir, I need to examine your receipt." I responded by continuing to walk past him while saying, "No thank you."

As I walked through the double doors I heard Santura yelling for his manager behind me. My father and the family had the Buick pulled up waiting for me outside the doors to Circuit City. I opened the door and got into the back seat while Santura and his manager, whose name I have since learned is Joe Atha, came running up to the vehicle.

I closed the door and as my father was just about to pull away the manager, Joe, yelled for us to stop. Of course I knew what this was about, but I played dumb and pretended that I didn't know what the problem was. I wanted to give Joe the chance to explain what all the fuss was for.

I reopened the door to talk with Joe and at this point Joe positioned his body between the open car door and myself. (I was still seated in the Buick.) Joe placed his left hand on the roof of the car and his right hand on the open car door. I asked Joe if there was a problem. The conversation went something like this:

Me: "Is there a problem?"
Joe: "I need to examine your bag and receipt before letting you leave this parking lot."
Me: "I paid for the contents in this bag. Are you accusing me of stealing?"
Joe: "I'm not accusing you of anything, but I'm allowed by law to look through your bag when you leave."
Me: "Which law states that? Name the law that gives you the right to examine my bag when I leave a Circuit City."

Of course Joe wasn't able to name the law that gives him, a U.S. citizen and Circuit City employee the right to examine anything that I, a U.S. citizen and Circuit City customer am carrying out of the store.

I've dealt with these scare tactics at other stores in the past including other Circuit Cities, Best Buys and Guitar Centers. I've always taken the stance that retail stores shouldn't treat their loyal customers as criminals and that customers shouldn't so willingly give up their rights along with their money.

Theft sucks and I wish that shoplifters were treated more harshly than they are, but the fact is that I am not a shiplifter shoplifter and shouldn't have to forfeit my civil rights when leaving a store.

I twice asked Joe to back away from the car so that I could close the door. Joe refused. On three occasions I tried to pull the door closed but Joe pushed back on the door with his hip and hands. I then gave Joe three options:

  1. "Accuse me of shoplifting and call the police. I will gladly wait for them to arrive."
  2. "Back away from the car so that I can close the door and drive away."
  3. "If you refuse to let me leave I will be forced to call the police."

Joe didn't budge. At this point I pushed my way past Joe and walked onto the sidewalk next to the building. I pulled out my phone and dialed 911.

Two minutes later Brooklyn, Ohio police officer Ernie Arroyo arrived on the scene. As I began to explain the story leading up to Joe Atha preventing my egress from the parking lot, officer Arroyo began to question why I refused to show my receipt in the first place.

I explained that I lawfully purchased the contents in the bag and didn't feel that it was necessary for me to let a Circuit City employee inspect the bag as I left. Officer Arroyo disagreed. He claimed that stores have the right to inspect all receipts and all bags upon leaving their store.

At this point Officer Arroyo asked to see my receipt and driver's license. I handed over the receipt, and stated that my name is Michael Righi. Again, Officer Arroyo asked to see my driver's license. The conversation went something like this:

Me: "I'm required by law to state that my name is Michael Righi, but I do not have to provide you with my driver's license since I am not operating a vehicle."
Officer Arroyo: "Give me your driver's license or I will place you under arrest."
Me: "My name is Michael Righi. I am not willing to provide you with my driver's license."
Officer Arroyo: "Turn around and up against the wall."

At this point I was placed in handcuffs, patted down, had my wallet removed from my back pocket and was placed in the back of Officer Arroyo's police car. My three siblings sat in the back of the Buick crying their eyes out, which is the only part of today that I regret.

I wish my little brother and sisters didn't have to watch this, but I knew exactly what I was doing and was very careful with my words. Other than putting my family through a little scare I don't regret anything that happened today.

Officer Arroyo ran my father's license plate, my driver's license and inspected my two receipts along with the contents of my bag. He also handed over my Circuit City bag to Joe Atha and allowed him to ensure that in fact I stole nothing from the store.

While being driven down to the station in the back of the police car I struck up a conversation with Officer Arroyo. I asked him if he was surprised that my receipts matched the contents in the bag and in a surprise moment of honesty he admitted that he was. I then asked Officer Arroyo what charges were going to be brought against me.

He explained that I had been arrested for failure to produce my driver's license. I asked him what would happen if I never learned to drive and didn't have a driver's license. After all, at the time that he arrested me I was standing on a sidewalk outside a Circuit City.

I wasn't driving a car, and even when I was seated in the Buick I was a back seat passenger. The officer never gave me a satisfactory answer to this question, but promised to explain the law to me after I was booked.

This morning I slept through my alarm clock and was in a hurry to drive to Cleveland. I didn't have time to iron my shirt, and this is what I regretted while my mugshot was being taken. Listen up kids. Always press your clothes because you never know when you'll be unlawfully arrested.

Shortly after being booked, fingerprints and all, Officer Arroyo presented me with my charges:

ORD:525.07: Obstructing Official Business (M-2)
(a) No person, without privilege to do so and with purpose to prevent, obstruct or delay the performance by a public official of any authorized act within the public official's offical capacity shall do any act that hampers or impedes a public official in the performance of the public official's lawful duties.

Not being able to find the law in the books that states that a citizen must provide a driver's license while walking through a parking lot, Officer Arroyo had to settle for "obstructing official business."

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.

My father posted the $300 bail that was needed to get me out of jail and back on my way to Park Avenue Place. (Sorry for the lame Monopoly joke, but it's my first time being arrested. Cut me some humor slack.)

After being released I stuck around the police station for a little while to fill out the necessary paper work to press charges against the Circuit City manager who physically prevented me from leaving the parking lot. I'm most interested in seeing my charges dropped for refusing to present identification, but I view that as a completely separate issue from the store manager interfering with my egress.

I understand that my day would have gone a lot smoother if I had agreed to let loss prevention inspect my bag. I understand that my day would have gone a lot smoother if I had agreed to hand over my driver's license when asked by Officer Arroyo. However, I am not interested in living my life smoothly.

I am interested in living my life on strong principles and standing up for my rights as a consumer, a U.S. citizen and a human being. Allowing stores to inspect our bags at will might seem like a trivial matter, but it creates an atmosphere of obedience which is a dangerous thing.

Allowing police officers to see our papers at will might seem like a trivial matter, but it creates a fear-of-authority atmosphere which can be all too easily abused.

I can reluctantly understand having to show a permit to fish, a permit to drive and a permit to carry a weapon. Having to show a permit to exist is a scary idea which I got a strong taste of today.

My hearing is scheduled for September 20th, 2007. I will be contacting the ACLU and the IDP on Tuesday (the next business day), and I plan to fight these charges no matter what it takes. I will provide updates on this page as events unfold. [/i]

http://newsite.michaelrighi.com/2007/09/01/arrested-at-circuit-city/


#2

Great. Thanks. I'll check in on this thread in a week or two, I'm sure by then someone will get around to explaining the evils of the U.S. Government or something like that.
Human rights......yada yada yada.......Bush Administration.......dirka dirka........Patriot Act........yada yada.......terrorists.


#3

What an asshole. He went looking for trouble and he found it.


#4

Thats exactly what will happen. First of all, I wouldn't of had a problem with someone asking to see my receipt because I understand why they do it. I could of done without the extra attention of walking off like I was "stealing something." And for the driver's license.....here in Texas you have to show ID when asked regardless if you're driving or not......its called "Fail to ID"..a misdemeanor fine. I don't understand when people make things harder than they need to be. Still fucked up,though.


#5

Yeah, how dare he defend his rights!

In case you didn't know, the guy in the shop has no right to search a customer's bag. Michael just happen to be one of those people who hold their privacy dear and know their constitutional rights.

That you would gladly let somebody other than the police search you (even on their own property) is no reason for calling the victim here an asshole. And if you have no issues being trapped by the staff in a store just goes to show how little you know about your rights.

He's taking this to court, and his chances of winning are somewhere in the 90% range.

As to the cop arresting him for refusing to show an ID, that's also a violation and there are Supreme Courts cases to support that.

I'd be curious about Nephorm's take on this.


#6

I thought if you were stopped driving and could not produce a licence, you had 24 hours to do so. This guy wasn't even driving.

I'm sure he was pissed because he thought he was being accused of shop lifting. But, if he had nothing to lose, why not let the guy check the contents of his bag? I don't know, but I do not think there is any law against accusing someone of shop lifting.

" I've dealt with these scare tactics at other stores in the past including other Circuit Cities, Best Buys and Guitar Centers. I've always taken the stance that retail stores shouldn't treat their loyal customers as criminals and that customers shouldn't so willingly give up their rights along with their money. "

Maybe this person should shop at Radio Shack.


#7

Zap, don't you live in the USA?

Citizens have the right to be assholes all they want... and no, that's not a dig. Do you want this world:

Behave, conform, produce ID you don't even legally have to carry, or else.

Anyway, it's only a blog, but it was an amusing read. I do want to know what the fuck this is supposed to have to do with Bush or the rest of the litany proposed?


#8

His right to what? Ignore the request of the stores employee to demonstrate he was not stealing? The store has every right to search his bags. He is on store property.

Ignore the lawful request of the police officer? He should have shown his ID as requested. It is the law, like it or not.

He was intentionally being an asshole.


#9

This post was flagged by the community and is temporarily hidden.


#10

He's young, and prety damn smart, but he's naive as hell if he thinks that the ACLU is going to help his sorry ass.


#11

Ok, now you're just displaying ignorance. The right the store (or any other property owner for that matter) has, is to ask you get the hell out of the property. If they're allowed to search your bag, might as well drop the pants and bend over so they can do a cavity search. I know this, because it is the case in most countries. In fact, I couldn't name a single country where this doesn't apply.

Now go do some homework and stop spewing nonsense. Do you realize what you are writing? The guy had to demonstrate that he wasn't stealing? Whatever happened to "innocent until proven guilty"?

I am appalled by your reaction. Not only do you condone sneaky practices that coerce people into giving up their rights, but you actually called the one that had the courage and determination to stand up to them an "asshole"! With people like you around, the ideals your forefathers fought for are in danger.


#12

Sounds to me like wanna be store cops asking a cop impromptu to be the asshole, and the cop agreeing to do so.

Power trip egging on power trip, and all relying on the confusion of the American "good man" to back them up at all costs. Sorry boys. Simply not that good.


#13

Hmmm....in his blog he stated that the guy only asked to see his receipt..HE DIDN'T ASK TO SEARCH HIS BAG(Take note). He denies the guy's request to see his receipt and walks off(which was stupid). He's just given the store AND ITS EMPLOYEES the legal right for detaining him because he's given them PROBABLE CAUSE for shoplifting on THEIR PROPERTY AND ITS VICINITY.

Did the employees use "undue" restraint? NO. Did they unlawfully search him? NO. Their intentions to search his bag is another thing. His chances against Circuit City are very slim if any. Thats what he gets for trying to prove a point.

After reading some of my penal code law books...I think he might have a minimal case against the police...all he is required to do is state his name. He only has to state his name, but the officer still has a legal right to identify him.

Anyone can state a name. Here's the loop hole in my opinion: By refusing and ARGUING with the police officer, he is disrupting his INVESTIGATION into a possible crime. Thats a valid case against the arrested.

He's screwed. He might get a slap on the wrist for the police charges...but he has no case against Circuit City.


#14

Lixy,you need to do your homework,my friend.....you're no expertise in everything "American." wink Our laws are not as "simple" as you. Stores have a right to prevent theft as non-invasive as possible...its not forcing people to give up their rights. If anything...he violated their rights under the circumstances. The issue with the police officer is even more complicated.


#15

Eh, I don't have anything especially pertinent to say.

It depends on the state law. As we know from Dudley Hiibel's case (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A57604-2004Jun21.html)
state law can at least require you to give your name, and I wouldn't be surprised if the current USSC would uphold being required to present ID if mandated by state law.

The first question is whether or not there is a provision in that state that police officers' demands for ID must be followed. I don't have time tonight to look at other sources to see what the case really is. If there is no such provision, then clearly the officer was in the wrong. Being an asshole isn't illegal, just not a great idea when dealing with the police.

As to the greater question of whether or not being required to present ID is a good thing or a bad thing, I think there ought to be at least a bona fide reason to suspect that the person has committed a crime - probable cause.

And I think that this further illustrates why national ID cards are a bad thing - I should not be required to carry identification with me if I am not engaging in the few behaviors that require it (driving a car, buying beer, etc). Federal ID opens us up to a federal law that requires carrying that ID. But I'm really starting to digress, and my comments about federal ID are not informed by real knowledge of an attempt to force all citizens to carry ID, but rather my own speculation.


#16

What's stupid about it? He's shaking about misconceptions. If anything, he's doing a great service to the nation by making people read the constitution and other legal document.

No sir. I'll ask you to revise your law. Probably cause in this case would require direct first hand knowledge of the act taking place. That is, unless the employee caught him stealing on CCTV or a chipped item beeped, he's clean as a whistle with regards to the law.

There is no ground for probable cause in this case.

That's arguable. They wouldn't let him leave.

It's sad that you see it this way. He wasn't trying to prove any point. He was just refusing to do like the other sheep who give up their rights "out of convenience", or - as in Zap's case - out of ignorance.

[quote[After reading some of my penal code law books...I think he might have a case against the police...all he is required to do is state his name. He only has to state his name, but the officer still has a legal right to identify him. [/quote]

This is something that I highly admire in the American system (and a few other select countries). I was stopped in the streets many times in Morocco and France by a "papers please!", so I get really pissed when I see an erosion of rights in the US.

I'm not really following you. Does a man on foot have the right to refuse showing his drivers license or not? If so, what is he supposed to do when the cop keeps harassing him to show it any way?

I don't think the cops have a chance against him. It's not like it's not been done before. Look up Kolender vs. Lawson.


#17

His comments show that this is probably not his first rodeo dealing with this issue. Since you mention CCTV...How do we know he wasn't showing suspicious activity before he checked out of the store? After all,this is only a blog from his side. If he showed suspicious activity beforehand..he has given them probable cause. We won't know the whole story until he goes to court. His chances might be 50%...either he has a case or he doesn't. I'm all for people doing what they believe is right,but damn....whatever happened to using good judgement?

Now if that man on foot is just walking and a cop asks him something...he doesn't have to say shit except his name. But if that man fits some description of a suspect,is at wrong place at wrong time,etc...the cop has a right to identify him and detain him for investigative purposes. If the cop is just harassing him with no probable cause and arrests him, then the cop is violating his rights and the guy has to fight it in the courts. This will vary from state to state. Here in Texas,you're screwed if you don't give ID.

Its just so many damn loop holes and scenarios.
Also a driver's license is not just for driving it is your state ID...important factor. So does having a driver's license violate your "rights?" Something to think about. Anyways,thats the best I can do. How would this situation play out in your area?


#18

Lixy, you keep saying "under the law, there is no probable cause" and "90% chance he will win" - do you know the law in question? Do you know the actual probable cause standard as applied to him? Do you know the state statute he will be tried under? Have you read the relevant case law?

Or are you just making it up as you go along based on what "feels good" to your mind?

This guy better hope and pray he has a better lawyer than Lixy.


#19

There's really nothing to this story that we can debate without knowing what specific laws are in question, and even if we knew the exact wording of those laws, we are only getting one obviously extremely biased side of the story.

You armchair attorneys need to wait until more information becomes available lest you prove your ignorance of the American legal system even further.

lixy, giving odds of a legal victory in light of the information available proves beyond any shadow of a doubt that you haven't the slightest clue of what you're talking about regarding legal matters.

Considering how you've proven in the past that you haven't the slightest clue how corporate America, financial America, political America, or cultural America operates, it makes one wonder what exactly you do know about America, and why you continually share your ignorant opinions about America to Americans.

You are a blind man lecturing a painter on the nuances of art.


#20

Exactly.