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Zoey_ JD
Zoey_ JD, JustAnswer Criminal Law Mentor
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 27116
Experience:  Admitted to NYS Criminal defense bar in 1989. Extensive arraignment, hearing, trial experience.
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I have a question about being accused ...I was

Customer Question

I have a question about being accused for shoplifting...I was in a department store with my toddler and mother. We had stopped to look at jewelry, specifically rings. I tried some on and then placed them back. As we were leaving a woman from loss prevention stopped us and asked us to return to the office with her and her partner. Inside the office they asked my mother if she had anything that belonged to the store and she of course said no and was asked to leave. Then with my toddler by my side I was asked the same thing and I of course said afraid of what was going on. They proceeded to look in my bag which is also my toddler's bag, in a bag I had from another story and in the mall stroller. As the searched the bag they found 2 rings that I was unaware were there. They proceeded to tell me that I was under arrest for shoplifting and the police would be called in. I explained to the woman that it must have been an accident that my little may have dropped them in the bag especially since she had taken things out which I was placing back in the bag. She then said we have video and it's the same story they always get and that as a parent if I want to blame my child ok. I said I wasn't blaming my daughter and I am willing to pay for the rings but that the possibility could very well be that my child dropped them in when getting stuff out. While I was in the office my child handed me a 3rd ring that she had taken out of her pocket right in front of the woman. I was then given a civil suit demand for repayment for the 3 rings and waited for the police.
Fortunately the office was understanding and did not place me in handcuffs but escorted me and my child in stroller to their office on the second floor. He read me my rights and filled out a report and handed me a ticket and told me that once the DA had a chance to review the case I would be notified if I needed to appear in court.
After I left the office my mother proceeded to tell me that she had given one of her rings to my child to play so she wouldn't keep touching the store ones. I went back and told the officer who then escorted us back to the store where the loss prevention woman admitted to not finding where the ring belonged to and returned to the my mother. So that is 3 rings- 1 my child had in her pocket, 1 that belonged to my mother which my child had that was found with 1 other ring found in the bag. The officer proceeded to tell me that he would note everything in the report and that this case was getting trickier and trickier.
My questions are what will happen from here? Will I have to go to court? Will this be on my record?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Criminal Law
Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 2 years ago.
My name is ***** ***** I am an experienced criminal lawyer.
Nobody here can predict the future. But as a general rule, when police are called to the scene of a shoplifting and then are read rights and given a citation, you can expect to be charged with a criminal offense.
If you are charged with a misdemeanor, even if you don't go to court, a plea of guilty and the payment of a fine will show up on your record. You are better off going to court where you can negotiate something that can keep your record clean.
California offers diversion opportunites for low level first offenders. That's a special form of supervision where you pay fines, do community service, take anti-shoplifting classes and stay out of further trouble with the law during your probation term. Complete all of that successfully and your case gets dismissed. It's harder work than just mailing in a fine, but it keeps a conviction from going on your record.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
I would still be charged criminally even though the officer stated that the citation is not an admission of guilt and the DA would have to decide whether or not it goes to court. Can't I contact the DA's office and explain?
Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 2 years ago.
No. You should say nothing to the DA. You've already been warned that anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. A suspect -- and you still are one -- has no business talking to the DA unless you do so with a lawyer.
The citation is just a ticket with a charge on it. It is not an admission. However if you mail it back to pay a fine, then it IS an admission because paying the ticket is the same as pleading guilty.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
There is no amount on the ticket to pay just a court date. And I was told to follow up in a couple months if I have not heard or received anything.
Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 2 years ago.
That's because right now the charge is a misdemeanor. You will be required to appear on that date unless you are told otherwise. Your failure to appear will cause the judge to issue a warrant for your arrest.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Is there a chance that it could be all dismissed without anything happening since the evidence is showing more and more that it must have been my child dropping the ring in the bag and she had the other ring was in her pocket. It was a very bad mistake that I wasn't aware had happened.
Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 2 years ago.
There is a chance.
But there is also a big difference between what the state needs to charge you and what it needs to convict you. To charge you they only need probable cause -- a reasonable belief that you may have committed a crime. They've got that, which is why they wrote up the citation.
To convict you, they need proof beyond a reasonable doubt. That requires a great deal more evidence. So if the DA doesn't think the evidence is good enough to meet his burden of proof to get a conviction, he will dismiss. At the same time, however, you can't count on that. So while you're waiting, it's a good time to start looking for a local lawyer.
You may not need him, because the case may not come to anything. So you don't have to hire him now. But if you do have to go to court, you want a lawyer to help you get the case dismissed or, if he can't, to get a disposition for you like the one I discussed in my first answer, which will keep you from getting a criminal record.