In August 2019, a man named Freedom Christopher Austin Pfaendler was arrested at a Walmart in Sahuarita, Arizona, for refusing to remove his motorcycle helmet while shopping. The incident took place just days after a mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, left 23 people dead.
Pfaendler was not armed and told officers that he never heard the manager ask him to remove his helmet because he was listening to music through his Bluetooth-equipped helmet. However, the store manager and employees called police because they were alarmed by Pfaendler’s behavior and the fact that he was wearing a helmet with the visor down.
Pfaendler was arrested for trespassing and disorderly conduct. The charges against him were later dropped, but he filed a lawsuit against Walmart and the Sahuarita Police Department, alleging that his arrest was unlawful.
The lawsuit argued that Pfaendler had a right to wear his helmet in the store and that the police officers did not have probable cause to arrest him. The lawsuit also alleged that the officers violated Pfaendler’s Fourth Amendment rights by searching him without a warrant.
In October 2022, a federal judge dismissed Pfaendler’s lawsuit. The judge ruled that the police officers had probable cause to arrest Pfaendler for trespassing because he refused to leave the store after being asked to do so. The judge also found that the search of Pfaendler was lawful because it was incident to a valid arrest.
Q: Do I have to remove my motorcycle helmet when shopping at Walmart?
A: Walmart does not have a policy requiring customers to remove their motorcycle helmets while shopping. However, if a store manager or employee asks you to remove your helmet, you are required to do so.
Q: What are my rights if I am asked to remove my motorcycle helmet in a store?
A: You have the right to refuse to remove your helmet, but the store may also refuse to serve you. If you are asked to leave the store and you refuse, you may be arrested for trespassing.
Q: What should I do if I am arrested for refusing to remove my motorcycle helmet in a store?
A: If you are arrested, you should remain silent and ask for a lawyer. You should also try to remember the names of any witnesses to the incident.
Q: Can I sue a store if I am arrested for refusing to remove my motorcycle helmet?
A: You may be able to sue a store if you are arrested for refusing to remove your motorcycle helmet, but the outcome of the lawsuit will depend on the facts of the case.
Q: What should I do if I am considering suing a store for arresting me for refusing to remove my motorcycle helmet?
A: You should consult with an attorney to discuss your legal options.
Q: What is the status of the Walmart helmet lawsuit?
A: The Walmart helmet lawsuit was dismissed by a federal judge in October 2022. The judge ruled that the police officers had probable cause to arrest the plaintiff for trespassing and that the search of the plaintiff was lawful.
The Walmart helmet lawsuit was a landmark case that raised important questions about the rights of motorcycle riders and the authority of stores to restrict those rights. The outcome of the case was a disappointment to many motorcycle riders, but it is important to note that the case was decided on a very specific set of facts. It is possible that a future case involving similar circumstances could have a different outcome.
- Judge dismisses complaint in 2019 Walmart arrest: https://www.gvnews.com/news/judge-dismisses-complaint-in-2019-walmart-arrest/article_d5d78a42-b225-11ed-9239-4b31aaa5d7c6.html
- SPD officers off the hook in 2019 Walmart arrest: https://www.gvnews.com/news/spd-officers-off-the-hook-in-2019-walmart-arrest/article_50f2d90c-b6cd-11ec-9c5c-6fb5f05816dd.html
- Pfaendler v. Sahuarita, Town of et al, No. 4:2020cv00188 – Document 73 (D. Ariz. 2023): https://law.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/arizona/azdce/4:2020cv00188/1240649/73/