What to expect for a shoplifting charge?

Get Legal Help Today

secured lock Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

What to expect for a shoplifting charge?

I’m 20 years old and today was my first time getting caught stealing makeup products of about $600. When I was caught they took me into a room and asked me for the stolen merchandise. I gave them the items and they then took down my information. I was extremely frightened since this was the first time this has ever happened. They told me I might have to pay 7 times the amount that I stole, which was $600. They also called the police and they were going to release me but since I don’t even have a state ID Card the police ended up taking me to jail to get my fingerprints. Later on, I decided to call my dad to come bail me out; he had to pay $500 (which the security told me that he will get his money back once I show up to court). Do I really have to pay 7 times of the $600 that equals up to $4200? If so, or if I even have to pay at least $600, is there anyway that they can reduce the price since I’m an extremely low income student whose living with very low income parents? Are there any extra fees that I would need to pay for court? How can I get help from an attorney and will they charge me money?

Asked on August 10, 2011 Washington

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Since shoplifting is a criminal offense I would urge to obtain legal counsel (especially in light of the dollar amount involved). An experienced defense attorney might be able to get the charge dismissed on a technicality or at least get it reduced. Additionally, since you are a first-time offender, you may well be be offered  something know in most states as "diversion". This is an alternative sentencing program whereby you plead guilty to the charge, receive a special probation, and upon its successful completion the charge is withdrawn and your case dismissed.  

However, diversion is only allowed for a first offense.  This means that if you get into trouble again, it will not be available for you regarding any subsequent offense that you may ever be charged with. That's why if you get an attorney and the get the your case dismissed, you will be eligible for diversion in the future if you should need it.

If money is an issue, you may qualify for a court-appointed lawyer. If not you can try and contact Legal Aid (although you must meet its eligibility criteria).  You could also check to see if there is a law school nearby; they typically run free/low cost clinics that handle these type cases.  Additionally, contact the local Bar Association in the county where the charges were brought; they may have a list of attorneys who will take your son's case "pro bono" (for free) or at least for a reduced fee based on his income/circumstances.

As for the "civil demand" (i.e. the amount that they are telling you that you have to pay), don't pay it. At least not $4,500. The fact is that all of the merchandise was returned. If there was little to no damage to it, you owe little to nothing to them. Just to them off of your back you could offer a token amount (say $75-$100). See what they do. They could sue you but probably won't; and they could not justify anywhere near 7x the amount of the merchandise. Also, if you do make a payment, bring proof of that with you to court. If the judge sees that some form of damages were paid they will not impose restitution on you as part of your sentence (probation), but you could still be fined.


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.

Get Legal Help Today

Find the right lawyer for your legal issue.

secured lock Secured with SHA-256 Encryption