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Attorney General Jason R. Ravnsborg

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Court Upholds Law Enforcement Authority to Perform Search After Citizen’s Arrest

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:    Thursday, May 18, 2017   
CONTACT:  Sara Rabern (605) 773-3215   

PIERRE, S.D. – Attorney General Marty Jackley announces that the South Dakota Supreme Court has upheld the ability to perform a search incident to a citizen’s arrest in the case of State v. Lee.
“The law provides retailers with the authority to make a citizen’s arrest and lawfully detain a suspected shoplifter until law enforcement arrives. This authority helps our retailers and private businesses to protect against theft. This decision further reinforces law enforcement’s ability to work with private businesses to help keep their property safe,” said Jackley.
In March 2015, Lee was shopping at a retail store when an asset protection associate noticed her concealing items in her purse. Lee was apprehended. The stolen items were recovered, the theft was reported to police and Lee was detained until an officer arrived. The law enforcement officer performed a warrantless search of her purse and found a glass pipe, which tested positive for methamphetamine. Lee challenged the authority of the law enforcement officer to conduct a search of her purse pursuant to a citizen’s arrest.
The court held that Lee was validly placed under citizen’s arrest by the retail store security officer.  Based upon the arrest, law enforcement has the authority to take her into custody and perform a search pursuant to the arrest.