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Zoey_ JD
Zoey_ JD, JustAnswer Criminal Law Mentor
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 27715
Experience:  Admitted to NYS Criminal defense bar in 1989. Extensive arraignment, hearing, trial experience.
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A few days ago I was at walmart where i do a lot of shopping,

Customer Question

A few days ago I was at walmart where i do a lot of shopping, my friend and I were talking and shopping I have a large leather purse that i always place in the top-seat of the cart. I take it out as i walk up to different items then toss it back. As I am shopping I put the very small things that do slip through the cracks of the cart also on the top-seat of the cart. On this day, I was really not all there, going through a lot with some family issues. my friend an I continued to shop I did toss up some small nail decals a box of wormer for my dog and a hair clip ( i actually through it on top of my purse cause i was not sure if i was going to keep it) walking around and shopping for this and that I continued to shop until I was done. went to the check out and checked out paid 95.00 or so for the items and realized that I had parked my car at the nursery entrance so my friend and i started walking through the store when we got to the registers i looked at her and said where is the nail stuff and wormer i did not see them when we checked out she said i don't know maybe you grabbed the wrong cart or something so i said well lets go back. that is when the walmart rentacops came up man handled us and said let go. I was what wait what is wrong, they said you know don't start lying now. Stumped we went to the office where they grabbed my purse and there were the items i did not see about 16.00 i said kande look hear, she like oh my god.. while in the office they were yelling at us and calling us liars would ask a question then when i would answer they would say shut and don't talk to me like that. never once was i disrespectful. they kept me there and was writing a report making comments to each other like "it amazes me that they steal this cheap on sale stuff. I kept telling them i will pay for it there was 98 bucks in my wallet. they would not listen they said they watched me doing it and hiding it? I was you miss understood, again told me to shut up. called the police and i told him what happen he was just as rude as they were. they sited and released me for petty theft and now i go to court on the 5 of July. I guess i need a lawyer. I just don't get it we were not even out of the store and we were turning around I probley would have found it when i went up to the register again but i did not get that chance. Any advise? I never would have taken anything and if i went out side to get in my car and saw it i would have returned it to them right there.
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Criminal Law
Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 4 years ago.


There is a difference between what the state needs to make an arrest and what they need in order to be able to get a conviction. To make an arrest they need probable cause. Probable cause is just a reasonable belief that crime was afoot and that you may have had something to do with it.

One does not have to actually exit the store and go home with the goods to be charged with petty larceny. All they need is enough evidence to infer your intent to take the goods. The fact that you had the items in your purse is enough to give them a reasonable suspicion that you intended to steal them.

They do not have to believe you. They are entitled to their own interpretation of facts. They can have the case filed with the court, which was done, and attempt to prove their side of the story beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a he said/she said type of case, and if you want to fight this case a judge or jury will determine whether you intended to take the goods or not after they have heard all of the evidence. If the state can't prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, you must be acquitted. That's much more difficult than finding probable cause.

You will need to get yourself a criminal lawyer. If you don't want to fight this case, he may be able to get this matter reduced to a lesser charge and, in any case, if it's your first contact with the criminal justice system, you can likely dispose of the case without getting yourself a criminal record. The lawyer can negotiate some sort of a diversion dispostion, which would get the case dismissed after you successfully completed certain court mandated requirements, such as fines, community service and anti-theft classes.

If you do want to fight the case that's all the more reason for having a lawyer. Petty larceny is a misdemeanor carrying a maximum of 6 months of jail time, so you should leave your defense to a pro.