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I got caught shoplifting, what should i expect next?

Caro, MI |

Recently, I made the worst decision of my life and attempt to steal an item from Walmart, valuing around at $48. As soon as Security caught me, I fully cooperated, went back to their office, gave them back the stolen merchandise, and gave them the information they requested (Name, phone number, approx.weight), even my social security number. They also took my picture. A city police officer was summoned. He took down all information I gave to the AP, and asked me questions. Then he told me I'm lucky he had something to do. So he will put out a warrant for my arrest on friday, and have them pick me up late afternoon, so i can't see a judge until monday. He left before I did, leaving me with no citation. What should i expect next? What all is going to happen? Why am I such an idiot?

This is my first time being caught shoplifting. The Asset Protection Associate said I am given a second chance to shop at walmart, since it was my first offense and I fully cooperated.

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Attorney answers 4


I cannot tell you why you are such an idiot but I can tell you this: if the police officer didn't charge you on the spot, I don't believe you will be charged. What is more than likely to happen is that you will receive a letter from an attorney stating that you owe them money. This letter is known as a civil demand letter. I generally advise clients to disregard these letters. You do not owe them anything, especially if they recovered their merchandise. In order for you to owe them something they would have to sue you and win. To do so would cost them more than they can ever hope to recover (and they would have to prove that they sustained damages) and so they usually don't pursue it. They send out these letters hoping that you don't know better and will simply send them money. Like I said - dont. I should caution you though that while I don't believe they will, if by some chance you do receive something in the mail from the courts, the police or the prosecutors office, or if the police come to arrest you in person, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible. Do not say or do anything without the attorney present.


As the other attorney stated, they will send a civil demand letter. However, I would not be to surprised if you either recieve an "appearance ticket," in the mail or a notice from the police department advising you that you need to turn yourself in on a warrant. Was this your first offense? If so, it is only misdemeanor. However, if it is your second or subsequent offense your penalties can increase. I would refraine from speaking to anyone about this other than an attorney. Also do not set foot back in Walmart. In this economy more stores are going after shoplifters as it effects not just the store but the consumer. Get an attorney you are comfortable with and have them advise you. Good luck.


In a major store like Walmart, virtually everything that happens in the store is on video. It is very difficult to get away with stealing at a store like that. Not only that, but your total benefit even if you get away with it is small, far smaller than the amounts you will now likely have to pay courts and attorneys.

I disagree with the advice that since the officer did not arrest you on the spot, this means you will not be charged or arrested. The whole point of the police officer coming down there was to make a case against you. Just because the officer decided to delay taking you in, perhaps because he had something else to do, does not free you from prosecution. With the police having been called, a prosecution is close to certain to occur. Also, you should know that the decision on whether to charge you belongs to the prosecutor, not to the store.

When you get the civil demand letter, you should ignore it. If you end up being convicted, then you might have to pay, but I see no real reason to pay now.

I would recommend that you hire an experienced criminal defense attorney, familiar with conditions in your local area, as soon as possible. You and the attorney can go to the police and arrange to turn you in. Do it early in the week to avoid the extra detention over the weekend.

If police come to arrest you do not resist. Since this is something that is reasonably likely to happen, make sure that you do not have on you, or near you, anything likely to embarrass you with police. It would be very bad to get caught with guns, or drugs, or stolen property.

You have apparently already talked more than you should have. If you have confessed, then your chances of winning a trial will be very low. In that case, you might have your attorney look at making a plea bargain.

In Michigan shoplifting is covered by the Retail Fraud statute. You are extremely likely to get probation on a nonviolent first offense theft crime. Good luck.

Contact me at 248-399-6930 for a free consultation. You and I do not have an attorney-client relationship formed by our communications on this website. Advice given by me on this website is general advice based on partial information. You should not rely on any advice given without first hiring a lawyer in the area where the case is pending, and providing that lawyer with full information.


What should you expect next?

Well, a couple of things. First, you will likely receive a notice to appear in the mail, saying that you need to go to court on a specific fate to be arraigned on retail fraud. This is a relatively minor charge, and in most jurisdictions you will be able to avoid a conviction through some kind of diversionary program (i.e., you are put on probation, have to take a class on "why stealing is bad", and so on).

As for this nonsense about "he will put out a warrant for my arrest on friday, and have them pick me up late afternoon, so i can't see a judge until monday": that's the cop being a first-class jerk. What he says about this is almost certainly not true. I've never known anyone to be picked up by the police several days later on a warrant for a minor retail fraud charge; the court usually just sends the letter. (And even if it did happen the way he said, it just proves he's a bigger jerk and someone who likes to abuse his authority.)

You'll likely receive a letter in the mail from the store demanding that you pay them money. It's a bluff; I have never known a retail store to actually sue someone over this kind of retail fraud, especially if the products were returned undamaged. Ignore it.

What all is going to happen?

As I said, you'll probably get a notice to appear for an arraignment. At this point, you'll go in front of a district court judge who will formally tell you what you are charged with, what the maximum sentence is, and what your rights are. (S)he will then enter a not guilty plea on your behalf and set a bond (typically a "Personal Recognizance" or "PR" bond that doesn't require you to pay any money to stay out of jail). You'll be told to come back for a pretrial conference on a later date. At the pretrial conference, the prosecuting authority (probably a city attorney, based on what you've said) will make some kind of offer for a plea deal: plead to a lower charge or maybe even offer a diversionary program. Assuming you plead guilty, most judges will sentence you on the same day. I'd expect 6 to 12 months of probation plus fines and costs as a sentence, depending on the judge.

Why are you such an idiot?

I'm not qualified to answer that particular question. :-)

Something you should know: a lot of people approach these kinds of cases with an attitude of "this is just a minor charge and it's probably not worth it to hire an attorney." I would caution you against this approach, especially if you are in a jurisdiction with mean-spirited prosecutors and judges. An attorney can often get you a better deal than you will get on your own. There are several reasons for this. First, knowledge is power; some city attorneys won't offer a diversionary program to people who aren't represented, knowing they are probably not aware they exist, but will grant them every time if a defense attorney asks for it. Second, the fact that you hired an attorney sends the message that you are taking it seriously, and I have found that prosecutors (and even judges) see that as a promising sign that you won't re-offend. Even a minor conviction can have long-term repercussions, so avoiding the conviction--even if it means going through some kind of diversionary program--is important.

NOTE: This answer is intended for information and educational purposes only and is NOT legal advice. Advice on specific legal matters requires an in-depth discussion of facts that can only be done in private, which is not possible through a website accessible to the public. Also, note that I am only licensed to practice law in Michigan, am not familiar with the laws of most other jurisdictions, and could not offer legal advice (even if I wanted to do so) outside of Michigan.

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