Montana Shoplifting Law Excerpts

27-1-718. Civil penalty for shoplifting.

(1) An adult or emancipated minor who takes possession of any goods, wares, or merchandise displayed or offered for sale by any store or other mercantile establishment without the consent of the owner or seller and with the intention of converting the goods to the taker’s own use without having paid the purchase price of the goods is liable to the owner or seller for a penalty, whether or not the goods have been returned undamaged, in the amount of the greater of $100 or the retail value of the goods, not to exceed $1,000. This amount is in addition to actual damages.

(2) When an unemancipated minor takes possession of any goods, wares, or merchandise displayed or offered for sale by any store or other mercantile establishment without the consent of the owner or seller and with the intention of converting the goods to the minor’s own use without having paid the purchase price of the goods, the minor’s parent or legal guardian having custody of the minor is liable to the owner or seller for a penalty, whether or not the goods have been returned undamaged, equal to the greater of $100 or the retail value of the goods, not to exceed $1,000. For the purposes of this subsection (2), liability may not be imposed upon any governmental or private agency that has been assigned responsibility for the minor child pursuant to court order or action of the department of corrections or the department of public health and human services.

(3) Judgments and claims arising under this section may be assigned.

(4) A conviction for violation of 45-6-301 is not a condition precedent to maintenance of a civil action under this section.

(5) For purposes of this section, the term “emancipated minor” means a person under 18 years of age who is self-supporting from personal earnings or is married. A person who received more than 25% of the cost of support from any person other than an agency of the government may not be considered an emancipated minor.

46-6-506. Temporary detention by merchant — liability.

(1) A merchant, as defined in 30-11-301, who has reason to believe that a person has committed or is in the process of committing the offense of theft may stop and temporarily detain that person. The merchant:

 (a) shall promptly inform the person that the stop is for investigation of shoplifting and that upon completion of the investigation, the person will be released or turned over to the custody of a peace officer;

(b) may demand the person’s name and present or last address and question the person in a reasonable manner for the purpose of ascertaining whether or not the person is guilty of shoplifting;

(c) may take into possession any merchandise for which the purchase price has not been paid and that is in the possession of the person or has been concealed from full view; and

(d) may detain the person or request the person to remain on the premises until a peace officer arrives.

(2) A stop, detention, questioning, or recovery of merchandise under this section must be done in a reasonable manner and time. Unless evidence of concealment is obvious and apparent to the merchant, this section does not authorize a search of the detained person other than a search of the person’s coat or other outer garments and any package, bag, or other container. After the purpose of a stop has been accomplished or 30 minutes have elapsed, whichever occurs first, the merchant shall allow the person to go unless the person is arrested and turned over to the custody of a peace officer.

(3) A merchant stopping, detaining, or arresting a person on the belief that the person is shoplifting is not liable for damages to the person unless the merchant acts in a manner contrary to this section.

(4) As used in this section, the following definitions apply:

(a) “Concealment” means any act or deception done purposely or knowingly upon or outside the premises of a wholesale or retail store or other mercantile establishment, with the intent to deprive the merchant of all or part of the value of the merchandise. The following acts or deceptive conduct is prima facie evidence of concealment:

(i) concealing merchandise upon the person or in a container or otherwise removing merchandise from full view while upon the premises;

(ii) removing, changing, or altering a price tag;

(iii) transferring or moving any merchandise upon the premises to obtain a lower price than the merchandise was offered for sale for by the merchant; or

(iv) abandoning or disposing of any merchandise in such a manner that the merchant will be deprived of all or part of the value of the merchandise.

(b) “Shoplifting” means the theft of any goods offered for sale by a wholesale or retail store or other mercantile establishment.

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