How best to handle a shoplifting charge?

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How best to handle a shoplifting charge?

I was convicted of shoplifting $169 worth of groceries from local major grocery chain. I need to know how to avoid jail time and possibly get my case dismissed through a diversion program? I am a first-time offender and am 36 years old. I need to know if I need an attorney to be granted diversion program?

Asked on June 3, 2011 under Criminal Law, California

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Since shoplifting is a criminal offense you really should have legal representation in this matter.  An experienced defense lawyer 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, you will probably be offered  "diversion" which 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you will plead guilty to the charge, receive a special probation, and upon its successful completion the charge will be withdrawn and your case will be dismissed. You do not need an attorney for this. 

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 charge(s).  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 representation by the PD; if not you could 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.


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