What will happen regarding a first offense shoplifting charge for $50?

My 18 year old son got arrested for shoplifting. The police released him to me and was going to make him do 7 days in jail but let him go because he is still in school(he is a senior). He has a court date in about 2 weeks. The police said he might have to do weekends in jail and pay a fine of $800. The store of course had it all on video and my son admits to taking it; it was in his backpack. He knows it was wrong. I think he was scared because this was his first offense. What could possibly happen?

Asked on November 27, 2011 under Criminal Law, Georgia


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

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

First of all, for a first offense shoplifting charge of $50, jail in all likelihood is not going to happen (unless he resisted arrest, etc). The fine as well will probably be reduced.

In a situation in which the defendant has no prior criminal record, the courts allow for a special probation called "diversion". This is an alternative sentencing tool that allows a person to clear their criminal record upon successful completion. It works like this: the defendant goes to court and plead guilty to the offense. The judge then issues a probation (typically community service, payment of the fine, resitution, etc). If and when the sentence is fully completed, the plea is withdrawn and the case is dismissed. In other words, the case is "diverted" out of the criminal justice system. Your son will be left with a clean criminal history record.

At this point you may want to consult with a criminal law attorney. Diversion is only available to first-time offenders. If they can get the charge dropped on a technicality or the like, then diversion would be available to your son in the future should he ever need it (hopefully not).

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