How is detainment treated differently in court than an actual arrest/booking?

UPDATED: Jun 12, 2009

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How is detainment treated differently in court than an actual arrest/booking?

My 18 year old girlfriend was detained at a retail outlet for shoplifting. She was issued a citation, but was not actually arrested. She was not booked at a local Sheriff’s station and jailed and we didn’t have to post bail, etc. Does this mean that it is already being treated as an infraction, as long as she pays the fine, and does whatever community service and probation?? Is this how most first time shoplifting offenses are treated? In this situation, will the court system treat the citation as an infraction & keep it off of her permanent record? Or should a lawyer be hired?

Asked on June 12, 2009 under Criminal Law, California


B. B., Member, New Jersey Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 13 years ago | Contributor

I would certainly recommend that your girlfriend at least consult with a defense lawyer before she goes to court, and as soon as possible, so that if she does need representation, the lawyer will have time to get into the case.  One place to look for an attorney is our website,

You haven't mentioned the value of what your girlfriend was supposedly caught stealing.  Most states have a dollar threshhold, often $500, below which theft is a misdemeanor, and above that amount it's a felony.  That is probably more important than the fact that she was given a summons rather than arrested.  She may be able to enter a pre-trial diversion program if she has no other previous convictions for anything, not just shoplifting (but excluding speeding and motor vehicle tickets like that).

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