47 Nw. U. L. Rev. 82 (1952-1953)

handle is hein.journals/illlr47 and id is 102 raw text is: Comments
The Protection and Recapture of
Merchandise from Shoplifters*
Probable Cause
A LTHOUGH not widely retained in the United States, imprison-
ment for debt is an old concept in Anglo-American law. Even
in England, however, imprisonment for debt did not mean that
the creditor could even momentarily imprison his debtor without
process of law for the purpose of enforcing payment of a debt.
Thus in the absence of a statute authorizing it, an English railroad,
whose custom it was to collect passengers' tickets at the end of
the journey rather than at the beginning, committed a trespass
when it arrested a passenger who did not present his ticket at
journey's end.- Neither could an inn-keeper detain a customer
for non-payment of his bill, although he was permitted to retain
personal property of the customer as security for the debt.2
Processless arrest is also forbidden in the United States. For
the most part our railroads avoid the problem, however, by col-
lecting tickets early in the journey, and it has always been held
that they may reasonably eject passengers who fail to present a
ticket or pay their fare to the conductor.3 But in 1873 a case
arose in Massachusetts and in 1882 a similar case in New York
which presented the problem faced by the English railroads. In
the former case, Standish v. Narragansett Steamship Company,4
plaintiff lost his ticket while aboard defendant's boat, and defend-
ant's agent refused to let him disembark when plaintiff failed to
present his ticket or pay the fare. Plaintiff was detained for two
hours. Subsequently he sued defendant for assault and battery
and false imprisonment. In holding for plaintiff, the Massachu-
setts court said that defendant had no right to detain plaintiff
until he paid his fare or gave up his ticket; but if plaintiff knew
he was to give up his ticket before leaving the boat, defendant
had a right, if he did not give it up or pay his fare, to detain him
for a reasonable time to investigate on the spot the circumstances
of his case. If defendant detained him to compel him to pay, or
for the purpose of investigating his case for an unreasonable time,
or in an unreasonable way, plaintiff could recover. The New
York Court of Appeals followed this decision in the later case.5
The significance of these cases lies not in the holding, but in the
* Continued from Last Issue.
1. Chilton v. The London and Croydon Ry., 16 M. & W. 212 (1847).
2. Sunbolf v. Alford, 3 M. & W. 248 (1838).
3. Hibbard v. N.Y. and Erie R.R., 15 N.Y. 455 (1857).
4. 111 Mass. 512, 15 Am.Rep. 66 (1873).
5. Lynch v. Metropolitan Elevated Ry., 90 N.Y. 77, 43 Am.Rep. 141 (1882).

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