Does the prosecution actually show the surveillance tapes in court for a first offense shoplifting charge?

UPDATED: Jun 16, 2011

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Does the prosecution actually show the surveillance tapes in court for a first offense shoplifting charge?

A friend’s 21 year-old daughter was arrested for shoplifting less than $150 worth of merchandise. She is really scared about what happens in court. Do they actually show the tapes and have a full blown trial for first offenses with a small cash value of merchandise taken?

Asked on June 16, 2011 under Criminal Law, New Jersey


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

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

For a first-offense shoplifting charge there may well not be a trial. Typically in such a case the defendant is offered "diversion" if they are a first-time offender. This is an alternative sentencing program whereby the defendant pleads guilty to the charge, receives a special probation, and upon successful completion of probation their plea will be withdrawn and the case dismissed.  Additionally, the defendant's criminal record should be automatically cleared.  

However, since shoplifting is a criminal offense she should consider having legal representation.  An experienced attorney might be able to get the charge dismissed on a technicality or win an acquittal at trial.  Also, since diversion is only allowed for a first offense this means that if she should ever again get into trouble it will not be available to her  at that time.  This is why if she get an attorney who gets the charge dismissed, she will be eligible for diversion in the future if she should need it.

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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