Rhode Island Shoplifting Law Excerpts

§ 11-41-20 Shoplifting.

(a) For the purpose of this section:

(1) “Conceal” means to place merchandise in such a manner that it is not visible through ordinary observation.

(2) “Full retail value” means the merchant’s stated price of the merchandise.

(3) “Merchandise” means any items of tangible personal property offered for sale within a retail mercantile establishment.

(4) “Merchant” means an owner or operator of any retail mercantile establishment or any agent, employee, lessee, officer, or director of the owner or operator.

(5) “Premises of a retail mercantile establishment” includes the retail mercantile establishment, and common use areas in shopping centers, and all parking areas set aside by a merchant or on behalf of a merchant for the parking of vehicles for the convenience of the patrons of the retail mercantile establishment.

(6) “Retail mercantile establishment” means any place where merchandise is displayed, held, stored or offered for sale to the public.

(7) “Shopping cart” means those push carts of the type or types which are commonly provided by grocery stores, drug stores, or other retail mercantile establishments for the use of the public in transporting commodities on or from the premises of the retail mercantile establishment.

(b) Whoever shall engage in the following shall be guilty of the crime of shoplifting:

(1) Take possession of, carry away, transfer or cause to be carried away or transferred any merchandise displayed, held, stored, or offered for sale by a retail mercantile establishment with the intention of depriving the merchant of all or any part of the full retail value of the merchandise;

(2) Alter, transfer, or remove a label, price tag, marking, indicia of value or any other markings which aid in determining value affixed to any merchandise displayed, held, stored or offered for sale in a retail mercantile establishment and attempt to purchase or purchase the merchandise personally or in consort with another at less than the full retail value with the intention of depriving the merchant of all or any part of the full retail value of such merchandise;

(3) Transfer any merchandise displayed, held, stored or offered for sale in a retail mercantile establishment from one container to another in an attempt to purchase or purchase the merchandise personally or in consort with another at less than the full retail value with the intention of depriving the merchant of all or any part of the full retail value of the merchandise; or

(4) Remove a shopping cart from the premises of a retail mercantile establishment without the consent of the merchantgiven at the time of the removal with the intention of depriving the merchant of the possession, use, or benefit of the cart.

(c) The fact that a person conceals upon his person, among his or her belongings, or upon the person or among the belongings of another merchandise displayed, held, stored or offered for sale in a retail mercantile establishment, for which he or she has not paid the full retail value, and the merchandise has been taken beyond the area within the retail mercantile establishment where payment for it is to be made, shall be prima facie evidence that the person has possessed, carried away, or transferred the merchandise with the intention of depriving the merchant of all or part of the full retail value of the merchandise without paying the full retail value of the merchandise.

(d) Any person convicted of the crime of shoplifting shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be punished by a fine of not less than fifty dollars ($50.00) or two times the full retail value of the merchandise, whichever is greater, but not more than five hundred dollars ($500), or by imprisonment for not more than one year, or both; provided, any person convicted of the crime of shoplifting merchandise with a retail value of over one hundred dollars ($100) who has previously been convicted of shoplifting shall be guilty of a felony and shall be punished by a fine of not more than five thousand dollars ($5,000), or by imprisonment of not more than five (5) years, or both.

§ 11-41-20.1 Shoplifting

Use of implements in concealment. – Whoever shall willfully take possession of any goods,wares, or merchandise offered for sale by any store or other mercantile establishment, or whoever shall willfully conceal upon his or her person, among his belongings, or upon the person or among the belongings of another unpurchased goods, wares, or merchandise of any store or other mercantile establishment either inside the store or other mercantile establishment or outside, but in its immediate vicinity, with the intention of converting it to his or her own use without paying the purchase price, with intention of depriving the owner of all or some part of the value, while wearing any article of clothing, or carrying any implement of any kind specifically designed or adapted for the purpose of concealing, carrying away, or otherwise unlawfully removing any merchandise from a store, knowing the clothing or implement to be designed or adapted for that purpose, with the intent to use or employ it or allow it be used or employed for an unlawful purpose, shall be guilty of a felony and shall be punished by a fine of not less than five hundred dollars ($500) nor more than five thousand dollars ($5,000) or by imprisonment for not more than five (5) years, or both.

§ 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) 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.

§ 11-41-28 Civil restitution for shoplifting.

(a) An adult or emancipated minor who commits or attempts to commit a larceny of goods for sale on the premises of a merchant as set forth in § 11-41-20 shall be civilly liable to the merchant in an amount consisting of:

(1) Not more than three (3) times the full retail value of the merchandise if not recovered in merchantable condition; plus

(2) A penalty of not less than one hundred dollars ($100) nor more than five hundred dollars ($500); plus

(3) Court costs.

(b) A store employee shall be liable in a civil action for larceny of goods for sale on the premises of his or her merchant employer and for larceny of cash from the merchant. The civil liability to the merchant shall be in the amount consisting of:

(1) Not more than three (3) times the full value of the goods or cash; plus

(2) A penalty assessed of not less than one hundred dollars ($100) nor more than five hundred dollars ($500); plus

(3) Court costs.

(c) A conviction or a plea of guilty to the offense of shoplifting is not a prerequisite to the bringing of a civil suit, obtaining a judgment, or collecting that judgment under this section.

(d) The fact that a merchant may bring action against an individual as provided in this section shall not limit the right of the merchant to demand, orally or in writing, that a person who is liable for damages and penalties under this section remit the damages and penalties prior to the consideration of the commencement of any legal action.

(e) An action for recovery of damages and penalties under this section may be brought in any court of competent jurisdiction, including the small claims court of a district court, if the total damages do not exceed the jurisdictional limit of the small claims court.

(f) The provisions of this section shall not be construed to prohibit or limit any other course of action permitted by law which a merchant may have against a person who unlawfully takes merchandise from the merchant’s premise.

(g) If the person to whom a written demand is made complies with the demand within twenty (20) days after the receipt of the demand, that person shall be given a written release from further civil liability with respect to the specific act of retail theft.

§ 11-41-22 Severability of shoplifting provisions.

If any section, clause, sentence, paragraph or part of §§ 11-41-20 – 11-41-22 shall for any reason be adjudged invalid, the remainder of §§ 11-41-20 – 11-41-22 shall not be affected.

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