The article below includes an incredible video that shows Stephanie Moreland stuffing a $6500 fur coat from Alaskan Fur Company into her underwear on New Year’s Eve. What is remarkable is that she was able to conceal the coat in her underwear for three days before turning it over. The police failed to discover the coat during her processing.
The case is a classic shoplifting case where an employee stops Moreland due to her suspicious behavior. As we discuss in class, such stops are governed by the tort of false imprisonment. Under the common law, a shopkeeper is limited in the time, place, and manner of such encounters. Minnesota has a classic shoplifter’s privilege law:
Minn. Stat. § 629.366 (2010)
629.366 THEFT IN BUSINESS ESTABLISHMENTS; DETAINING SUSPECTS
Subdivision 1. Circumstances justifying detention.
(a) A merchant or merchant’s employee may detain a person if the merchant or employee has reasonable cause to believe:
(1) that the person has taken, or is taking, an article of value without paying for it, from the possession of the merchant in the merchant’s place of business or from a vehicle or premises under the merchant’s control;
(2) that the taking is done with the intent to wrongfully deprive the merchant of the property or the use or benefit of it; or
(3) that the taking is done with the intent to appropriate the use of the property to the taker or any other person.
(b) Subject to the limitations in paragraph (a), a merchant or merchant’s employee may detain a person for any of the following purposes:
(1) to require the person to provide identification or verify identification;
(2) to inquire as to whether the person possesses unpurchased merchandise taken from the merchant and, if so, to receive the merchandise;
(3) to inform a peace officer; or
(4) to institute criminal proceedings against the person.
(c) The person detained shall be informed promptly of the purpose of the detention and may not be subjected to unnecessary or unreasonable force, nor to interrogation against the person’s will. A merchant or merchant’s employee may not detain a person for more than one hour unless:
(1) the merchant or employee is waiting to surrender the person to a peace officer, in which case the person may be detained until a peace officer has accepted custody of or released the person; or
(2) the person is a minor, or claims to be, and the merchant or employee is waiting to surrender the minor to a peace officer or the minor’s parent, guardian, or custodian, in which case the minor may be detained until the peace officer, parent, guardian, or custodian has accepted custody of the minor.
(d) If at any time the person detained requests that a peace officer be summoned, the merchant or merchant’s employee must notify a peace officer immediately.
Subd. 2. Arrest.
Upon a charge being made by a merchant or merchant’s employee, a peace officer may arrest a person without a warrant, if the officer has reasonable cause for believing that the person has committed or attempted to commit the offense described in subdivision 1.
Subd. 3. Immunity.
No merchant, merchant’s employee, or peace officer is criminally or civilly liable for any action authorized under subdivision 1 or 2 if the arresting person’s action is based upon reasonable cause.
In this case, police say that Moreland “modified her underwear and had it stuffed down the front of it but from the rear it didn’t appear she had anything.” Under the privilege, a shopkeeper is not allowed to do a bodily search but must call the police. However, the police are allowed generally to do a patdown and, in some circumstances, a strip search after arrest.
It is astonishing to see this type of hidden contraband in a jail and makes one wonder about security levels in keeping out drugs and weapons.
15 thoughts on “Minnesota Woman Steals Fur and Then Succeeds In Hiding It In Her Underwear For Three Days of Incarceration”
I sure hope that coat gets cleaned !
Unlike Illinois, Minnesota doesn’t forcibly penetrate your sexual orifices when you get arrested… this should not be an article of criticism, but one of how nice it is for your authoritarian overlords to not rape you while you’re in their care.
seamus: You just know that the store is going to put that coat right back on the rack
okay, I laughed
well done good sir
All joking aside, what was she arrested for?
Police are called, they don’t find the coat, but still make an arrest. Three days later, after the holiday weekend, a detective interviews her about the theft. Stehlik says, “Detectives had no idea it was on her at all.”
So she was arrested without any evidence that she had stolen other than the shopkeeper’s suspicions. Then they put her in prison, leaving her for 3 days while they enjoy their holiday. After that they finally get around to interviewing her.
The fact that she had stolen the fur makes it a humorous story but it could have easily been a horrible terrible violation of basic rights.
Sounds like one hell of a cod piece to me…
You just know that the store is going to put that coat right back on the rack.
To add a slightly sexist note … I don’t think a man could have gotten away with this … I’m thinking anatomy …
On that note, Happy Nigel Tufnel Day . . .
Sounds like a booty call unanswered…
Gives a new meaning to “panty liner” or “underware enhancement “….
I think “modified underwear” may be the catch phrase of the day.
Perhaps it was a beaver coat?
Professor, any prison inmate will tell you that it is easier to get drugs inside a prison than on the street.
As for the search, I recall an incident where a friend of mine, an Arkansas State Police officer, picked up a prisoner from another officer. He followed his usual procedure and searched the prisoner thoroughly. The other officer was indignant, protesting that he had already searched the prisoner, saying, “Do you think I am incompetent?” At that point, my friend held up the loaded Saturday Night Special he had just found in the guy’s sock. The other trooper had to go sit down–seems he suddenly became nauseated and needed to throw up.
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