Can Mall of America require patrons to submit to a bag search?
Mall of America tightened security today in anticipation of a Black Lives Matter Minneapolis protest. That includes check points where security searched the bags of shoppers. Does the mall have that right?
Mitchell Hamline School of Law Professor Raleigh Hannah Levine said the mall isn’t restricted by the Constitution since it’s not a government actor. It can require searches in order to enter, but only if those searches are required of everyone who enters.
“It can not act on a discriminatory basis,” Levine said. “If it’s subjecting only African-Americans to those searches rather than other people, then that would be a problem legally.”
Other states across the country have interpreted their state constitutions more broadly to define places like the mall as town squares with free speech rights, Levine said.
But Minnesota’s courts have ruled in the past that places like the Mall of America are defined as private property, even if they’re partly publicly financed. That gives Mall of America officials the right to control who is on the property.
“If [people] are not shopping or doing business and if they’re gathering in a way that impedes the mall from conducting its business, the mall can ask them to leave,” Levine said. “If they refuse to leave, they’re trespassing, and the mall has the right to proceed against them as trespassers on private property.”