Another Bogus Arrest

09.19.07 | 4 Comments

Via Code Orange:

Papers Please: Arrested At Circuit City
Written By: Michael Amor Righi, September 1st, 2007

Today was an eventful day. I drove to Cleveland, reunited with my father’s side of the family and got arrested. More on that arrested part to come.

For the labor day weekend my father decided to host a small family reunion. My sister flew in from California and I drove in from Pittsburgh to visit my father, his wife and my little brother and sister. Shortly after arriving we packed the whole family into my father’s Buick and headed off to the grocery store to buy some ingredients to make monkeybread. (It’s my little sister’s birthday today and that was her cute/bizare birthday request.)

Next to the grocery store was a Circuit City. (The Brooklyn, Ohio Circuit City to be exact.) Having forgotten that it was my sister’s birthday I decided to run in and buy her a last minute gift. I settled on Disney’s “Cars” game for the Nintendo Wii. I also needed to purchase a Power Squid surge protector which I paid for separately with my business credit card. As I headed towards the exit doors I passed a gentleman whose name I would later learn is Santura. As I began to walk towards the doors Santura said, “Sir, I need to examine your receipt.” I responded by continuing to walk past him while saying, “No thank you.”

As I walked through the double doors I heard Santura yelling for his manager behind me. My father and the family had the Buick pulled up waiting for me outside the doors to Circuit City. I opened the door and got into the back seat while Santura and his manager, whose name I have since learned is Joe Atha, came running up to the vehicle. I closed the door and as my father was just about to pull away the manager, Joe, yelled for us to stop. Of course I knew what this was about, but I played dumb and pretended that I didn’t know what the problem was. I wanted to give Joe the chance to explain what all the fuss was for.


Of course Joe wasn’t able to name the law that gives him, a U.S. citizen and Circuit City employee the right to examine anything that I, a U.S. citizen and Circuit City customer am carrying out of the store. I’ve dealt with these scare tactics at other stores in the past including other Circuit Cities, Best Buys and Guitar Centers. I’ve always taken the stance that retail stores shouldn’t treat their loyal customers as criminals and that customers shouldn’t so willingly give up their rights along with their money. Theft sucks and I wish that shoplifters were treated more harshly than they are, but the fact is that I am not a shiplifter and shouldn’t have to forfeit my civil rights when leaving a store.


Joe didn’t budge. At this point I pushed my way past Joe and walked onto the sidewalk next to the building. I pulled out my phone and dialed 911.

Two minutes later Brooklyn, Ohio police officer Ernie Arroyo arrived on the scene. As I began to explain the story leading up to Joe Atha preventing my egress from the parking lot, officer Arroyo began to question why I refused to show my receipt in the first place. I explained that I lawfully purchased the contents in the bag and didn’t feel that it was necessary for me to let a Circuit City employee inspect the bag as I left. Officer Arroyo disagreed. He claimed that stores have the right to inspect all receipts and all bags upon leaving their store.

At this point Officer Arroyo asked to see my receipt and driver’s license. I handed over the receipt, and stated that my name is Michael Righi. Again, Officer Arroyo asked to see my driver’s license. The conversation went something like this:

Me: “I’m required by law to state that my name is Michael Righi, but I do not have to provide you with my driver’s license since I am not operating a vehicle.”


At this point I was placed in handcuffs, patted down, had my wallet removed from my back pocket and was placed in the back of Officer Arroyo’s police car. My three siblings sat in the back of the Buick crying their eyes out, which is the only part of today that I regret. I wish my little brother and sisters didn’t have to watch this, but I knew exactly what I was doing and was very careful with my words. Other than putting my family through a little scare I don’t regret anything that happened today.

Officer Arroyo ran my father’s license plate, my driver’s license and inspected my two receipts along with the contents of my bag. He also handed over my Circuit City bag to Joe Atha and allowed him to ensure that in fact I stole nothing from the store.

While being driven down to the station in the back of the police car I struck up a conversation with Officer Arroyo. I asked him if he was surprised that my receipts matched the contents in the bag and in a surprise moment of honesty he admitted that he was. I then asked Officer Arroyo what charges were going to be brought against me. He explained that I had been arrested for failure to produce my driver’s license. I asked him what would happen if I never learned to drive and didn’t have a driver’s license. After all, at the time that he arrested me I was standing on a sidewalk outside a Circuit City. I wasn’t driving a car, and even when I was seated in the Buick I was a back seat passenger. The officer never gave me a satisfactory answer to this question, but promised to explain the law to me after I was booked.


ORD:525.07: Obstructing Official Business (M-2)

(a) No person, without privilege to do so and with purpose to prevent, obstruct or delay the performance by a public official of any authorized act within the public official’s offical capacity shall do any act that hampers or impedes a public official in the performance of the public official’s lawful duties.

Not being able to find the law in the books that states that a citizen must provide a driver’s license while walking through a parking lot, Officer Arroyo had to settle for “obstructing official business.” Keep in mind that the official business that I was supposedly obstructing was business that I initiated by calling the police. I called for help and I got arrested.


[Emphasis Added]I can reluctantly understand having to show a permit to fish, a permit to drive and a permit to carry a weapon. Having to show a permit to exist is a scary idea which I got a strong taste of today.

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Doesn’t this reek of behavior you’d expect from a communist government? Demanding papers, presumption of guilt, lack of common sense in approaching a situation, punishing the victim. This is what we’re evolving to in the post 9/11 world to feel safe?

I say, good for you Michael Righi – the next time I visit Fry’s Electronics (who also maintain a policy of show your receipt to exit,) I will refuse to show my receipt as a matter of principal. If anything interesting happens as a result, I’ll share it. Enough is enough.

This type of behavior from law enforcement appears to be the norm post 9/11 rather than the exception. There is now a presumption of guilt rather than innocence and instead of protecting citizens, it would appear, that the law enforcement activities are geared to protect business and property. On the heels of the University of Florida student arrest at the Kerry speech, the corruption levels in Congress, and the obvious disregard of law by the Executive Branch, you have to wonder where all of this is heading.