How best to handle a shoplifting charge?

UPDATED: Jun 3, 2011

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How best to handle a shoplifting charge?

I was convicted of shoplifting $169 worth of groceries from local major grocery chain. I need to know how to avoid jail time and possibly get my case dismissed through a diversion program? I am a first-time offender and am 36 years old. I need to know if I need an attorney to be granted diversion program?

Asked on June 3, 2011 under Criminal Law, California


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

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Since shoplifting is a criminal offense you really should have legal representation in this matter.  An experienced defense lawyer might be able to get the charge dismissed on a technicality or at least get it reduced.  However, since you are a first-time offender, you will probably be offered  "diversion" which is an alternative sentencing program whereby you will plead guilty to the charge, receive a special probation, and upon its successful completion the charge will be withdrawn and your case will be dismissed. You do not need an attorney for this. 

However, diversion is only allowed for a first offense.  This means that if you get into trouble again, it will not be available for you regarding any subsequent charge(s).  That's why if you get an attorney and the get the your case dismissed, you will be eligible for diversion in the future if you should need it.

If money is an issue, you may qualify for representation by the PD; if not you could try and contact Legal Aid (although you must meet its eligibility criteria).  You could also check to see if there is a law school nearby; they typically run free/low cost clinics that handle these type cases.  Additionally, contact the local Bar Association in the county where the charges were brought; they may have a list of attorneys who will take your son's case "pro bono" (for free) or at least for a reduced fee based on his income/circumstances.

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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