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

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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

Answers:

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

Answered 5 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you will plead guilty to the charge, receive a special probation, and upon its successful completion your plea will be withdrawn and your case dismissed.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.


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