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Fictional Scenario

Applying J.D.B. v. North Carolina to People v. Brandon Salinger

Brandon Salinger was a 15-year-old high school sophomore and his school's 6'2" wrestling champion, weighing in at 220 pounds when he won the regional championship last year. He was mistaken for the team's assistant coach at several tournaments because of his physical appearance and mature demeanor.

During his social studies class period one Wednesday afternoon, Brandon was at the mall with his 18-year-old sister Katie, who was helping him shop for a tie to wear to the homecoming dance. When Brandon refused to touch a neon green paisley tie that Katie handed to him, she stuffed it in the back pocket of his pants. Finding nothing they liked in the men's formal wear department, they left the store and continued through the mall.

Sam Sanchez was a security guard employed by MallSecure, at the time. He was on duty that afternoon when he noticed Brandon walking through the mall with a green tie and price tag hanging out of his back pocket. In light of the fact that the department store manager had recently notified MallSecure about a spike in shoplifting during homecoming season, Security Guard Sanchez became suspicious. He approached Brandon and asked to see the receipt for the tie. When Brandon could not produce the receipt, the security guard escorted Brandon and Katie away from the public shopping forum and into the mall's security office suite.

Anita Colton was a city police officer who worked part-time as a security guard for MallSecure when she was off duty. She was in the security office at the end of her shift on Wednesday when Security Guard Sanchez brought in Brandon and Katie. Officer Colton was on her way to the police station and had changed into her police officer's uniform, which included a badge and a handgun.

Security Guard Sanchez put Brandon in an empty office and took Katie to another room to question her. The empty office had a window looking into the outer reception area of the security office suite. Brandon could see people coming and going through the front door.

Officer Colton entered the room where Brandon was seated and closed the door. When Officer Colton asked Brandon to produce his driver's license, Brandon said he did not have one yet and handed her his school ID, which did not indicate his age or year in school. Brandon then told Office Colton that he was 15 years-old, and Officer Colton responded by raising her eyebrows and asking him to recite his exact birth date. Based on his stature and mature appearance, Officer Colton suspected that Brandon was misrepresenting his age – a common tactic used by shoplifters who hope to be sent home with just a warning. Brandon refused to give Officer Colton further information without knowing where his sister was. Officer Colton told Brandon that he was not required to speak to her or to offer any information.

Brandon then saw Katie through the window. She was walking around in the reception area and talking on her cell phone. Officer Colton again acknowledged that Brandon did not have to talk, but added that it was likely that both he and his sister could go to jail for the night if he did not tell the whole story and resolve the situation before she had to leave and go to the police station in a few minutes. She also warned that punishment for Katie would likely be much worse as an adult. Brandon did not want to risk his sister going to jail, so he answered the officer's questions truthfully over the next 15 minutes.