What should I do next if I was caught shoplifting?

I got caught shoplifting $166 worth of merchandise. I’m barely 18 with a perfectly clean slate with good education.They said I would receive a letter with a court date and possible fines. Is this likely? If yes, what should I say/do at court?

Asked on March 24, 2011 under Criminal Law, California


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

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Shoplifting is a criminal offense and any time criminal charges are involved legal counsel should be consulted.  An experienced attorney might be able to get the charge dismissed on a technicality or possibly at least get it reduced.  Since you are a first-time offender, they may also be able to arrange for "diversion" which is basically an alternative sentencing program whereby you will plead guilty to the charge, receive a special probation, and upon successful its completion, your case will be dismissed.  Additionally, your record should be automatically cleared.  However, diversion is typically only allowed for a first offense.  This means that if you again gets into trouble it will not be available to you.  That's why if you retain an attorney who manages to get the charge dismissed, you will be eligible for diversion in the future if you should need it.

If money is an issue, see if she qualifies for representation by the PD's office or Legal Aid (there are income limits). Also, check if there is a law school nearby to where the charges where brought; they typically run free/low cost clinics that handle these type cases.  Finally, you can contact the local Bar Association in the county in question; it may have a list of attorneys who will take your case "pro bono" (for free) or at least for a reduced fee based on your 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 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.