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If I enter into a diversion program in Atlanta [for shoplifting], must I plead guilty?

Atlanta, GA |

I was charged with misdemeanor shoplifting [less than $50] in February, one day after taking the LSAT. I'm in the process of finding and retaining representation. I am 27 years old and have no criminal history whatsoever. Given the certainty that I will have to explain this incident to the State Bar after law school, I am trying to find the best outcome—short of a not guilty verdict—to aid in the defense of my character and fitness when questioned by the bar after law school. The facts of my case aside [$250 purchase + a careless mistake] it seems that my best option is a diversion program—community service etc.—with an eventual dismissal. I cannot plead guilty, to a lesser charge or otherwise, that much is clear. I greatly appreciate your advice.

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Attorney answers 6


The diversion program is your best option - that or trial. You'll have to explain during the law school application process too, probably. Diversion will make it disappear.



Thanks. Does diversion require a gulity plea?


No, you won't have to plead guilty. I would be happy to discuss this case with you. Feel free to call me for a free consultation at 404-985-9772.


Welcome to criminal law. :)

No, a diversion program isn't a conviction. Yes, you will have to explain this to the Bar.

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A diversion program is always the best option. But there are other issues to discuss pertaining to how and under what conditions you enter the program and the timing to determine of and when you may be able to expunge the arrest itself.

Cory Earl Yager

Cory Earl Yager


You definitely want to seek diversion. You need to also make sure the paperwork is marked as expungement eligible. Even with a dismissal after successfully completing diversion and later expungement, you may still have to disclose the matter to the bar fitness committee. You should also discuss this angle when you are considering how to dispose of the case.


I agree with all previously said about the merits and benefits of diversion. As to the comment about a trial, under these facts I would not recommend a trial. Your risk of a guilty verdict is too great when diversion seems like a very likely option. Expungement was mentioned, and if the opportunity is there, you would be wise to seek an expungement. Even if you achieve diversion and expungement, you will want to be very forthcoming about this with the bar. I suspect (but cannot guarantee) if you are, there will not be much to it with the bar. Depending upon the county where this is pending, you will want to chose the right local attorney. Though the attorney's relationship with the prosecutor and even the judge should make no difference on the outcome, in reality it often does. Please give me a call, and I depending on the county, I can advise who I would recommend. (678) 576-3000


A Pre-Trial Diversion Program is the way your should proceed. No conviction, a dismissal and expungement.

Now to another issue. You will have to explain it to the State Bar of Georgia. Also, you have not been charged with "shoplifting", you have been charged with THEFT BY SHOPLIFTING. The state is calling you a "thief" which goes to your very character. BTW, calling the THEFT a careless mistake is like calling possession of meth use of a "recreational" drug. No such thing. Get your mind, morality and professionalism up to speed now. You need to start thinking like a lawyer. Save the spin for your clients.

Hire defense counsel immediately. Don't waste what could be a great career dream by having a criminal record as a THIEF. Chances are you can come out of this just fine -- but NEVER forget how YOU got here. This is the type of conversation you will have with many clients if you want to help them move forward with their lives BEYOND just your representation on their case. Your will be an Attorney and Counselor at law. Hone those skills, Good luck, and I wish you the very best in your law practice.

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