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Minor Shoplifting Issues
by Ron Davis
Confronting a minor who may be shoplifting is nearly always a delicate task for the accuser. That’s especially true if the confrontation turns physical.
At a Los Angeles shopping center, for example, a minor recently claimed that an employee of one of the center’s tenants used hostile force following an alleged shoplifting incident.
The incident occurred when the minor and a female friend were browsing through the merchandise at the tenant’s store. One store employee said she saw the two girls take three pairs of shorts into a fitting room and later emerge with only two pairs of shorts. That employee alerted another employee, who questioned the girls about the missing shorts.
The second employee, while waiting for store security to arrive, began arguing with one of the girls. When a security guard arrived, he tried to break up the argument. When he did, the store employee backed into the other girl, who at the time had her back to the argument.
In response, the girl retaliated to the bumping by whirling around and pushing the store employee, who, witnesses say, staggered a few steps forward. When the employee regained her balance, she then reportedly told the girl, “Don’t push me” and returned the push.
The girl involved in the pushing pleaded that she retaliated in self-defense. She contended that the evidence was sufficient to support the finding of battery on the part of the store employee. That’s because, she explained, “The circumstances under which [the bump] occurred would lead a reasonable person to believe that [the store employee’s] intent was hostile.” But in a later trial, a California judge rejected that plea and found that the girl had illegally committed battery.
Explained the judge, “It is not a defense if you were responding to what you thought was a provocative act if it wasn’t a threat or attempt to inflict physical injury…. So I disagree [with the minor’s argument of self-defense], especially given the fact that according to [the minor’s] description of it, she turned around and she saw the back of [the store employee]. I think that would also lend to the fact that she was not reasonable in thinking that she was being attacked.”
An appeals court agreed with the lower court and ruled, “The evidence established that during a verbal altercation, [the store employee], who was standing back-to-back with the minor, bumped into the minor’s back. Following this, the minor turned around and pushed [the store employee]. Such evidence was sufficient to support a finding that the minor committed battery.”
In so ruling, the appellate court ordered that the minor not associate with anyone that she knows her parents, probation officer, or placement staff disapproves of. (The People v. T.M., 2009 WL 1425620 [Cal.App. 2 Dist.])
Decision: May 2009
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