Shoplifting is considered by most to be a minor crime, but legal penalties for petty thieves can be harsh. If you're facing charges for stealing from a shop, it's easy to feel afraid and overwhelmed. However, if you keep your head together and do your best to show the shop owner and the court that you are not just some thief, you may be able to avoid jail time or probation entirely.
Express Your Contrition
Both courts and shop owners have the capacity for forgiveness, especially with petty theft or first-time thieves. In many states, the government will drop charges against you if the business you stole from consents. Talk about the charges against you with your lawyer, and come up with a statement to express your contrition to the shop owner. If you offer to work off the debt, perform community service, or pay back the value of what was stolen in installments, you might have a chance at placating them.
If the business pressing charges is owned by a larger company, you may also be able to get leniency by writing a message to the upper administration of the company. Have your lawyer help you draft a letter pleading your case to the CEO and other high-level business executives. If your letter is convincing, you may be able to get the charges dropped in exchange for payment for the stolen goods. At the very least, your letter will give others a good reason to believe you feel genuinely sorry for your actions.
Don't Get Personally Involved
It's tempting to talk to the shop owner or witnesses involved in your case, but this can make you look worse if the charges go to trial. It's easy to get riled up while discussing the case, and you might accidentally say or do something that could incriminate you and result in a harsher sentence from the judge. Even if you don't say anything untoward during your communication, the other party may still be in a position to claim that you did.
To keep yourself absolutely safe from any additional accusations, filter all communication through your lawyer. This allows you to keep detailed records of when discussions occurred and exactly what was said. Communicating via your legal counsel will also increase your chances of a successful arbitration if you and the shop owner choose to settle your differences outside of court.
Plan For The Worst-Case Scenario
Even if arbitration is looking positive, it's a good idea to plan for the worst possible outcomes of your case. Talk with your lawyer about whether or not you're willing to plea down your charges before a trial. A petty theft case can be reduced from misdemeanor charges to an infraction, which involves fees and community service rather than probation and jail time.
If you have to go to court, you may be able to get your sentence reduced if you express remorse and offer to pay back the value of the shop owner''s lost merchandise. Character witnesses, like friends, family, and former employers, can also help to convince the judge that you wouldn't repeatedly shoplift. You may have to attend counseling or financial management classes to help reduce your risk of desperation or recidivism in the future.
Stealing can be tempting, especially when you fall on hard times, but it can also ruin your life. Talk to your lawyer if you've been charged with petty theft, and you might be able to get the case against you dropped or lowered to a minor charge. Be forewarned though, subsequent charges will be dealt with much more harshly. For the sake of avoiding future trouble, talk to your lawyer about advisement services. That way, if you feel desperate enough to steal again, you might be able to get help that puts you on a safer path.
If you are still looking for a lawyer, check out a firm like Kaiser Law Group.