Do I need a lawyer regarding a shoplifting charge?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Do I need a lawyer regarding a shoplifting charge?

While shopping, I completely forgot about items that were on the bottom of my cart. So I was stopped as I was leaving the store. When it was brought to my attention, I was willing to pay for the forgotten items. However, they would not allow me to do that. I was given a ticket for retail fraud third degree. I do not have a criminal history of any kind and nothing like this has happened to me before. I don’t know what to do.

Asked on April 20, 2017 under Criminal Law, Michigan


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

Since a shoplifting charge is a criminal offense, it would be advisable for you to have legal representation. An experienced defense lawyer may be able to get the charge dismissed on a technicality or otherwise reduced. Also, since you are a first-time offender, you will probably be offered something called "diversion", "deferred adjudication" or your state's equivalent. This is an alternative sentencing program wherein you will plead guilty to the charge, receive a special probation, and upon its successful completion have the charge withdrawn and your case dismissed. However, diversion is only allowed for a first offense, so if you get into trouble again, it will not then be available to you. That's why if you get an attorney  who gets your case dismissed, you will be eligible for diversion in the future should you need it.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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