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How long does Safeway have to file charges?

Santa Rosa, CA |

I am now 21. Age 20 in October of 2012 I was caught shoplifting (1st offense) barely $50 worth of merchandise from a Safeway in California. The store security took down my address and made me sign a paper that told me I was going to receive a fine and then "most likely" an order to appear in court to pay again/etc. The store security told me that I was not allowed back into any Safeway, but never once mentioned for how long. It is now April 2013, and while I did receive the civil demand fine (which, in order to avoid further conflict, I immediately paid), I have not received any orders to appear in court.

My questions are:
How long does Safeway have to file against me/send me a court order?
When would be a "safe" time to start shopping at Safeway again?
Is this petty-theft, or more?

Is something like this jail-time worthy, even for a first-time offender? I obviously don't want it to be, I am just sick with worry over doing something so stupid and having it ruin my life. I have not entered a Safeway in the last six months, and I will not do so for at least a full year. Even then I don't know if I will feel totally comfortable- the store security had said that if "they" caught me, I could be arrested for trespassing. Again though, they never mentioned how long I was not allowed in.

Attorney Answers 4

  1. Get a grip. Safeway doesn't have any power to file any charges against you, the government (through the DA's office) files criminal charges. The government has 1 year to file this misdemeanor petty theft case against you (from the date of the offense). Since the DA hasn't filed charges by now I doubt they will file charges. From what you wrote, it doesn't seem like the police were called and you were never cited. Given this, it is unlikely that you will be charged. Nonetheless to be extra cautious it would be wise to contact a local criminal attorney to ensure that you will not be charged. Good luck.

  2. The DA must file charges within one year. Safeway must initiate the process or the DA will not be aware of any incident. Stay away from Safeway since it appears they may have forgotten about the incident so why remind them by violating their request. You don't want to go from the bottom of the pile to the top of the stack. It may be safe to return in November, just in time for the holiday season. Wish you the best.
    (800) 409-7010

    The response above is not intended as legal advice since it’s impracticable to provide thorough, accurate advice based upon the query without additional details. It is highly recommended that one should seek advice from a criminal defense attorney licensed in your jurisdiction by setting up a confidential meeting. Moreover, this response does not constitute the creation of an attorney-client relationship since this message is not a confidential communication because it was posted on a public website, thereby publicly disclosing the information, which is another reason to setup a confidential meeting with an attorney.

  3. When I was a little kid (2-3), I threw my food at another guest at Denny's. I was asked never to return. While I'm not a big fan of their mediocre food, I've been back on several occasions and I'm pretty sure they've never caught on. It's not like they've got my picture (and "what he might look like today" sketch) hanging in the office. When they run my card, the computer doesn't alert start sounding an alarm. They have the authority to ban you from their store, but no real way of enforcing it. Unless the guard who caught you/other employees who were present recognize you, what can they really do?

    That said, I agree with the other answers you've received. The prosecutor has 1 year to file a misdemeanor, but it doesn't sound like the police or courts were ever notified. Perhaps this had something to do with you paying the civil demand fine, but chances are you could have ignored that letter and avoided that expense as well.

    If you do happen to be charged, you can most likely get it reduced to an infraction or enter a diversion program. There's pretty much no way you're going to do jail time.

  4. You have several questions to address here. Let me start by clarifying that Safeway does not file criminal charges against you. Should Safeway desire to push for criminal charges (not likely in this case), this endeavor would likely begin by reporting the alleged theft to a policing agency for a report that would later be shipped to the prosecuting attorney for review and eventual filing.
    In reality, given the low dollar amount (petty nature of the offense) it would not be in Safeway's interest to expend the resources to push for a prosecution. It is also why a law enforcement agency would likely take a Field Card report rather than a detailed criminal investigation on this. From a District Attorney's perspective, your lack of criminal record, the petty nature of the crime and lack of moral imperative lead me to believe they would not likely get involved. So in short, there was a crime (petty theft) but there will not likely be any legal fallout in the form of criminal charges against you.
    As for when you can go back, these businsses have regular turn over and likely will not even recall this entire incident. It's not even likely that if they did recall that they would confront you or escort you out if you came in with legitimate business. While this was a traumatic experience for you, they likely have moved on with many others since.

    In short, it was a bad idea to take items without paying but in the greater scheme of things, this was relatively minor in comparison to many thefts that occur there. The store has likely move on at this point and it would likely be fair to suggest that you could do the same.

    Good luck with this.

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