What can I expect as the result of my shoplifting charge?

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What can I expect as the result of my shoplifting charge?

I’m 21 this is my first offense. I was charged with shoplifting over an $8 shirt. I recieved the $237 demand from the lawyer representing the store (which I will pay). And I admit it was a stupid choice and is embarrassing. I have a pre-trial conference on the 18th. Could I go to jail for this?What else should I be expecting?

Asked on January 21, 2011 under Criminal Law, Arizona

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Shoplifting is a criminal offense.  Accordingly you should without have legal representation in this matter.  An experienced attorney might be able to get the charge dismissed on a technicality or possibly at least get it reduced.  Since you are a first-time offender, they may also be able to arrange for "diversion" which is an alternative sentencing program whereby you plead guilty to the charge, receive a special probation, and upon successful completion of your probation the charge is withdrawn and the case dismissed.  Your record should be automatically cleared.

However, diversion is typically only allowed for a first offense; if you again get into trouble it will not be available to you.  That's why if you get an attorney who gets the charge dismissed, you will be eligible for diversion in the future if you should ever need it.

As for the civil demand, in such type cases these demands are routinely made. However, they are rarely acted upon.  As a practical matter, your chances of being sued are virtually zero.  Consequently you can ignore this letter if you want.  Yet, be aware that if you don't pay this first demand you will get second, and for possibly an even higher amount.  Again, you can ignore it if you choose.  However if, at that point, you decide to make payment, pay no more than the cost of the item (and possibly a few dollars over).  Put this in a letter to them - do not speak with them directly.  These people are known for their threatening and intimidating tactics.   

Additionally, if you do choose to pay prior to your court appearance, keep proof of the payment.  In such cases the court may order restitution (if damages occurred), so if you pay the amount requested in the civil demand letter, you can prove that no additional restitution is owed.


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