If I was caught shoplifting, do I need a lawyer?

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If I was caught shoplifting, do I need a lawyer?

If I go in there and apologize and explain how stupid I was, will they defer it? This is my first offense.

Asked on June 6, 2011 under Criminal Law, Washington

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Shoplifting is a criminal offense, so you really should have legal representation.  An experienced defense attorney might be able to get the charge dismissed on a technicality or at least get it reduced.  However, since you are a first-time offender, as you are aware, you will probably be offered "diversion". This is an alternative sentencing program whereby you will plead guilty to the charge, receive a special probation, and upon its successful completion the charge will be withdrawn and your case dismissed. The fact is that you do not need an attorney for this. 

However, diversion is only allowed for first-time offenders.  This means that if you get into trouble again, it will not be available to you regarding any subsequent charge.  That's why if you get a lawyer and they get your case dismissed, you will be eligible for diversion in the future if you should need it.


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