If a policeman decides not to arrest you on the spot for stealing, what are the chances that the prosecutor will decide to pursue the case?

UPDATED: Apr 18, 2011

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If a policeman decides not to arrest you on the spot for stealing, what are the chances that the prosecutor will decide to pursue the case?

Caught stealing. Had recycle bag and put few items ($54 worth) in bag intending to pay and got important phone call. Walked out of store on phone without paying for groceries. Was stopped in parking lot. Cops called and rights read. I pled case to cop. He verified I was on phone and looked at tape of me in store. Cop said he could tell when someone is stealing and I did not look like this. When he saw my record was completely clean and had plenty of money in purse to pay for groceries, so he decided not to arrest me. He said he will send video to prosecutor and let them decide. What are chances this will be dropped? If not dropped do you have an idea of what will happen? Do you know about how long until I hear anything?

Asked on April 18, 2011 under Criminal Law, Florida


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

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

The fact is that since this is a simple shoplifting case and the policeman on the scene chose not to arrest you after viewing the evidence (i.e. the tape), there is every liklihood that the matter will be dropped.  Find out what, if any, restitution is being required by the store. Then make sure that you pay it.  At that point, the prosecutor will most probably refuse to pursue this further in court.  You may have well gotten lucky here.

If you did not get lucky and the case is brought before a judge (assuming that you are a first-time offender) you can apply for something known as "diversion" (or FL's equivalent).  This is an alternative sentencing scheme whereby upon successful completion of probation your case will be dismissed and you will be left with a clean criminal record.  However, it will require a court appearance, serving probation, and lots of paperwork. 

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