What shouldI do about a first offense shoplifting incident if I can’t afford an attorney?

UPDATED: Aug 4, 2011

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What shouldI do about a first offense shoplifting incident if I can’t afford an attorney?

I am 17 years old and I was caught shoplifting. It was jewelry worth about $80. The store is making me pay them $200 for what I did. I went to the police station and they said they will send me a court date in the mail. I plan on saying I am guilty and very, very sorry for what I have done. I also plan on writing a letter to the store as an apology. I don’t want my parents to find out about this (I was treated as an adult, and they said they can’t tell my parents). I plan on getting a job and paying for all the fees myself. I was not planning on getting a lawyer.

Asked on August 4, 2011 Michigan


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

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

When you go to court you can ask the prosecutor for something that is typically called "diversion" in most states; this an alternative sentencing program. In fact, the prosecutor may well even offer it to you without your asking for it. Pursuant to diversion, you will enter a plea of "guilty". The court will then sentence you to probation (fines, counseling, and/or community service, etc.). If you successfully complete the terms of your probation and get into no further trouble, your guilty plea will be withdrawn and your case will be dismissed. In most states your record will be automatically cleared (although in some states you will need to get it "expunged" via a separate filing).

Just be aware, that if you get into trouble again in the future you will not be eligible for diversion; it is only available to first-time offenders.

The fact is that you may want to at least speak with an attorney about all of this.

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 AttorneyPages.com 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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