What to do about sentencing for a shoplifting addiction?

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What to do about sentencing for a shoplifting addiction?

I was recently arrested for shoplifting $160 worth of video games. This is my 5th time being caught after 10 years of shoplifting. The first time it was downgraded to an ordinance, the second time it was downgraded to theft of immovable property, the third and fourth times I pled guilty. The third time I paid a fine and the fourth time I attended a 3 hour shoplifting class and had to do 90 hours of community service. So, here I am at my 5th time. I am retaining a criminal defense attorney this time. Do you think he could argue for house arrest or probation or any other option that doesn’t involve jail time? I have an 8 year-old special needs daughter. My husband works nights and I have no one to watch my daughter and do her homework with her when she gets out of school. I don’t know how my daughter is going to cope with me going to jail. I just can’t imagine being without my little girl. She is the reason that I am alive, otherwise I would have committed suicide a long time ago. I have a terrible addiction that I can’t seem to kick. My psychiatrist told me that I need a therapist, group therapy, and a 12-step program. My husband says that he will stick by my side through thick and thin. I will never survive jail. Would it be beneficial to write a letter to the judge?  In cumberland County, NJ.

Asked on January 6, 2011 under Criminal Law, New Jersey

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

You seem to be someone who is smart and caring and your daughter and husband are lucky to have you.  Yes, even though this one little issue keeps causing a problem you are aware of it, are honest about it and are willing to do what it takes to get yourself on the right path.  You are so much ahead of the game than those who refuse to acknowledge their problem so do not beat on yourself, okay?  Now, getting an attorney is a very good idea.  What you also have to do is to speak with your attorney about the right programs that are around to help you and enrolling in the NOW voluntarily so that you can show the Judge that you re willing to take responsibility and are moving in the right direction.  Next, you need to consider getting a second opinion from another psychiatrist.  This one does not seem to be helping unless you have refused the treatment that is being suggested.  Do not refuse it any longer but start it.  Again, it shows the judge your true character.  Take things one day at a time.  Try also volunteering for part of the day to keep yourself occupied and the temptations at bay.  Good luck to you.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Don't due, say, or write anything until you speak with your attorney. Let him or her advise you as to what to do. The factors you site could help get you into something other than jail, but it is not a given--while you say you were arrested for your "shoplifting addiction," the fact is, you were arrested for stealing and for the 5th time. Courts do not have to--and generally don't--take too much cognizance of "addiction" as a defense--otherwise, no drug user would ever go to jail. They probably will consider the impact on innocent, minor family members, like your daughter, and they *may* give some credence to a psychologist's recommendation, but again--let you your attorney advise and represent you.


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