If I was arrested for shoplifting at a department store, should I get an attorney?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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If I was arrested for shoplifting at a department store, should I get an attorney?

The items added to $196 and I have never been arrested or in any trouble before. I am a stupid college student who was badly peer pressured. The cop told me to plead not guilty and speak with the prosecutor. What could the consequences be?

Asked on December 21, 2015 under Criminal Law, New Jersey


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

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

Since shoplifting is a criminal offense, you should have legal representation in this matter. An experienced criminal law attorney might be able to get the charge dismissed on a technicality or at least get it reduced. Also, being that you are a first-time offender, you may be offered what is known as "diversion" (or your state's equivalent). This is an alternative sentencing program whereby you will plead guilty to the charge, receive a special probation, and upon its successful completion your plea will be withdrawn and your case dismissed. However, diversion is only allowed for a first offense. This means that if you ever again get into trouble, it will not be available for you regarding any future charge. So if you hire an attorney to defend you, and they get your case dismissed, you will be eligible for diversion should you ever again 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 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.

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