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RobertJDFL, Lawyer
Category: Criminal Law
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I have a hearing tomorrow for a first offense of shoplifting.

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I have a hearing tomorrow for a first offense of shoplifting. It was assigned as a Misdemeaner-1, I have made restitution payments to the store. When I asked for a court appointed attorney, the judge said I was denied because they only assign attorneys if jail time is possible. What should I expect tomorrow?

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What state is this in, please?

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Lebanon, PA

Thank you for your question. If you need additional information after reading my answer, please click REPLY and I will be happy to follow-up.


The nature of the charge depends on the total value of the merchandise taken. A 1st degree misdemeanor is for items valued over $150 but less than $2,000. Now, technically, by law, you could get 5 years in prison for that. As this is a first offense, and a minor charge, that's highly unlikely. Worst case scenario, I would expect you to get probation/community service/fine, maybe an anti-theft class if convicted.


The prosecutor may be willing to grant you an ARD or Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition. If the prosecution is willing to offer you and accelerated rehabilitative disposition plea, you will pay a fine, be place on probation for 1-2 years, and likely have to perform some community service.


If you do not commit any additional criminal offenses, after the probation period, the charge is removed from your record, so you will still have the opportunity to have no record, and will be able to honestly admit to having no criminal conviction.


Normally in Lebanon County, you are supposed to request this before your preliminary hearing. The application can be found online and the number for the county district attorney's office if you have questions is on there as well.



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Customer: replied 5 years ago.
I had requested assignment of a court appointed attorney, but the judge said that because it was shoplifting offense, they would not assign one because there was no jail time involved. I did keep that record of denial and wrote on the letter the reason why. I also have record of the payments made thus far, is there anything else I should have and/or mention during this hearing tomorrow? I appreciate you help. I do need to step out for a 1/2 hr., so if you respond during this time, I will get your answer in about 1/2 hr. i will then submit payment if I have no further questions. Also, should I request the ARD program or does the judge make this decision-the merchandise was valued at 390.00, it was stupid, and the first time I have ever done this. I am in counseling, should I mention this as well? Thanks again. Lee'

The ARD program is offered by county, and each may have different sign up requirements. I linked you to the application for Lebanon County in my previous answer -there's an application you can do online. Now, it does say if you want to get into the ARD program you're supposed to apply before your preliminary hearing -I don't know how stringent they are with that requirement. You might call tomorrow morning can give you a straight answer.

It sounds like you intend to plead guilty or maybe no contest? I'd see if you could talk to the prosecutor when you get to court (if they're anything like prosecutors here in Florida, they're usually in the courtroom before hearings start for the day preping) and ask if he would be willing to put you into the ARD program.


If you can't talk to the prosecutor you can ask the court to put you into it. It's a first offense, and usually prosecutors and judges are looking to give first offenders (those with non-violent minor crimes like this) second chances. And it sounds like the judge isn't looking to give you any jail time, either. It certainly doesn't hurt to tell the court or prosecutor that you're making restitution and voluntarily entered into counseling to ensure you don't make the same mistake in the future. It shows you're taking responsibility and taking steps to make better decisions.


Oh, and no problem if you need to step out. I'll be here for a few more hours, and if I'm not, just reply back and I'll answer it when I get back online later tonight.

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Hi. One more question, I am sorry, but I have never been to court for anything. Would you advise me to plead guilty, and get this resolved. I made a bad decision, and am paying back the department store Boscovs as I mentioned, someone said Boscovs like to make an example out of shoplifters, is there anything else I need to be aware of so I can get into an ARD program or is there anything that Boscovs could do to make this difficult? Thanks again for your help, I appreciate it very much.

I don't want to advise you because I'm not your lawyer, and I don't know all the facts. That said, do you have any possible defense(s) to the charge (e.g., mistaken identity, you were actually going to pay when you were stopped, etc)? You've already made restitution and seem to be taking responsibility - unless you have reason to drag it out, pleading not guilty isn't going to get you anywhere. Given that it's a minor charge and you're not likely looking at any jail time for a first offense, a lawyer wouldn't necessarily be able to get you a better deal than what you get from the court.


I'm not familiar with this store in particular but they may just have a policy of prosecuting shoplifters. There are some companies that take a much stronger stance against theft than others, and therefore, they want to see each person prosecuted, but ultimately, the decision is left up to the judge as to your sentence. They're not going to lock you up and throw away the key over this.


As for the ARD program, there's nothing more I can add other than what I've told you and what's on the website I linked you too.


Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Thank you so very much, I appreciate your help, it has given me some relief as to what to expect. Thanks again.
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