The IRAQ Approach to Exams

Applying the IRAQ approach to law examination questions is essential for providing a logical and comprehensive answer to a law examination. BY CHUCK MILAM



IRAC (Issue, Rules, Analysis, Conclusion) functions as a methodology for legal analysis. Here is a great IRAC Example:

Person A walks into a grocery store and picks up a loaf of bread. He then stuffs the bread beneath his jacket. A security attendant sees him and follows him to the cash register. Person A passes through without stopping to pay for anything. The security attendant stops him at the gate. He detains person A while he interrogates him.

Person A is unresponsive and uncooperative and in fact downright hostile to the charges being leveled at him by the security attendant. Person A is held for a period of two hours at the end of which it is found that he had actually put the loaf of bread back and was not stealing. Person A sues the grocery store for false imprisonment. Would person A prevail in court?



The issue here is if person A could prevail in court by alleging that he was falsely imprisoned.



The issue here is if person A could prevail in court by alleging that he was falsely imprisoned.

Most jurisdictions in the United States allow recovery for false imprisonment. The courts look at two elements in determining whether a person has been falsely imprisoned, namely just cause and authority.

In looking at the element of just cause, courts further analyze two factors: reasonable suspicion and the environment in which the actions take place.

If a person suspects that he is being deprived of property legally attached to him and he can show that his suspicions are reasonable then he is said to have a reasonable suspicion. Courts also look at whether the activity in question took place in an environment where stealing is common.

Crowded public places and shops are considered to be more justifiable places where a person could have just cause for reasonable suspicion in comparison to private property or sparsely populated areas.

In looking at the other element of authority, the courts tend to favor people directly charged with handling security as people with the authority to detain a person in comparison to private individuals.

The courts have made exceptions in the favor of the person conducting the detention if he is a shopkeeper. This special privilege is called the shopkeeper's privilege. In general the element of authority is usually seen as one part of a two part legal justification for legally justifiable detention.

For example in cases involving detention by an officer of the law, courts have ruled that the officer has to have both just cause and authority.

Authority in itself is not enough. The same reasoning applies to all detaining individuals. Exceptions are made in the case where a person of authority has to conduct an investigation with just cause and courts usually grant a reasonable amount of time in detention for this purpose. Here the reasonable amount of time a person can be kept in detention is directly related to the circumstances under which the detention takes place.



Person A was conducting his activity in a crowded place that happened to be a grocery store. He was further detained by a security attendant.

The security attendant had seen him pick up a loaf of bread and walk past the cash register without paying. The security attendant detained him until he discovered that no theft had taken place. Person A was subsequently released upon this determination of fact.

A court looking at these facts would try to apply the two elements of false imprisonment. The first element of false imprisonment is just cause.

The first factor of just cause is reasonable suspicion. The security attendant saw person A pick up a loaf of bread and stuff it beneath his jacket. This is an uncommon action as most grocery shop customers usually do not hide produce under their personal belongings. The security attendant, therefore, has reasonable suspicion because a reasonable person in his place would have also considered this action to be suspicious.

Person A further walks by the cash register without paying. The security attendant has already seen person A hiding the bread under his jacket and honestly believes that person A is still in possession of the loaf of bread.

A reasonable person in the security attendant's stead would arguably act to stop person A. Thus, this seems to satisfy the first factor of the element of just cause, reasonable suspicion.

The second factor of the element of just cause is the environment. The activity takes place in a grocery store. A grocery store is usually a place where shoplifters and other thieves operate regularly. This reduces the burden of just cause placed on the person performing the detention.

The security attendant has to be unusually vigilant and suspicious of a person's motive because of his location. This then seems to satisfy the second factor of the element of just cause, environment.

The second element of false imprisonment is authority. The person performing the detention of A is the security attendant of the grocery store.

He is the person charged with securing the grocery store and its property. The security attendant sees person A put the loaf of bread underneath his coat and walk through the checkout without paying. The security attendant now has to act because he has been charged with the security of the store and he has just cause. The security attendant performs the investigation after he puts person A in detention and it takes two hours.

Two hours might seem like an unreasonable amount of time but given the fact that person A was unresponsive and uncooperative it seems to be reasonable. It also seems as if the security attendant was doing his due diligence as he releases person A as soon as the facts are established and it is shown that person A was not stealing the loaf of bread.

Finally we have to look at the fact that since the activity took place in a grocery store, the shopkeeper's privilege applies directly to the security attendant in charge of securing the store and its property. This privilege gives the security attendant extra leeway in detaining people in whom he has reasonable suspicion. Most courts would lean heavily towards the shopkeeper because person A was on the property of the grocery store and thus could be subjected to extra scrutiny given the long history of the shopkeeper's privilege in common law.


Person A would most likely not prevail in the courts because the security attendant does not satisfy either element of false imprisonment. The detention of person A was legal because the security attendant had both just cause and authority. Additionally, the shopkeeper's privilege further solidifies the legality of the detention. Person A, therefore, has no recourse under the law.




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