How hard is it to get a petty theft charge dismissed? 53 Answers as of July 08, 2013

I was shopping at a store for shorts and sunglasses. Chose a pair of sunglasses, started to pick out some shorts, no place to put the glasses, so put them in my pocket. Went to try the shorts on, then paid for the shorts and completely forgot about the sunglasses in my pocket until approached by the store security outside. Any chance of getting the case dismissed as there was no intent on my part to take the glasses?

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Law Office of Tracey S. Sang
Law Office of Tracey S. Sang | Tracey Sang
There is always a chance. A common disposition for cases like this is for you to take an anti-theft class and, upon proof of completion, the charge is reduced or dismissed.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 10/4/2011
Law Office of Ronald Aronds, LLC
Law Office of Ronald Aronds, LLC | Ronald Aronds
Shoplifting charges are generally not dismissed. If you genuinely had no intent to steal then you would likely have to take the case to trial to attempt to win your case. You should hire a lawyer to help you since the penalties you are facing are pretty severe.
Answer Applies to: New Jersey
Replied: 10/4/2011
Law Office of James A Schoenberger
Law Office of James A Schoenberger | James A Schoenberger
Yes, but you will have to convince a prosecutor that you did not have criminal intent.
Answer Applies to: Washington
Replied: 10/4/2011
Law Office of Richard Williams
Law Office of Richard Williams | Richard Williams
If properly present to the judge, there is a possibility of being found not guilty. The question is one for the trier of fact.
Answer Applies to: Alabama
Replied: 10/3/2011
Law Office of Peter F. Goldscheider
Law Office of Peter F. Goldscheider | Peter Goldscheider
You will need an experienced criminal law specialist to try to either get the case dismissed or to a non theft charge. If not such an attorney would be the best to try the case to a jury. It sounds like you may have a decent defense.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 9/30/2011
    Burdon and Merlitti
    Burdon and Merlitti | Adam Van Ho
    The facts you described do not look good. Many people claim they did not intend to take an item. But yes, you or your attorney can talk to the prosecutor and/or store owner and try to get the charges dismissed. If you are a first-time offender, you may wish to see if the court has some kind of diversion/intervention program, where the charges would be sealed if you completed the program. I would recommend discussing the specifics of your case with an attorney to evaluate all of your options.
    Answer Applies to: Ohio
    Replied: 9/30/2011
    bark & karpf
    bark & karpf | peter bark
    From a legal stand point you are not guilty of theft since there was no intent on your part, but you might not be believed. What will happen depends on the jurisdiction. In the busier courts like the ones in New York City and its suburbs, you might be offered an ACD (delayed dismissal).
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 9/30/2011
    Keyser Law Firm
    Keyser Law Firm | Christopher W. Keyser
    Possibly but you may have some trouble proving that you didn't intend to take the sunglasses. If this is your first offense there is a good possibility of resolving your case where you do not enter a guilty plea and prosecution of your case is deferred for one year and eventually dismissed.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 9/30/2011
    Levine & McHenry LLC
    Levine & McHenry LLC | Matthew McHenry
    There's a chance, depending on things including but not limited to what county this is charged in, who the district attorney handling the case is, and what your criminal history is, if any. You need to hire an attorney who can speak with the district attorney's office on your behalf. If nothing else, you have a strong defense if the case ends up in trial.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 9/30/2011
    Michael Breczinski
    Michael Breczinski | Michael Breczinski
    Well just getting it dismissed may be possibility or maybe some sort of program where, if you stay out of trouble and do what ever they tell you to do, then it is dismissed. Or the other choice is to go to trial and if the jury finds there was a reasonable doubt as to your intent they could find you not guilty. You should get an attorney.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 9/29/2011
    Jules N. Fiani, Attorney at Law
    Jules N. Fiani, Attorney at Law | Jules Fiani
    That would be $750.00.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 6/3/2013
    Andersen Law PLLC
    Andersen Law PLLC | Craig Andersen
    The answer will depend on the video tape and your credibility as a witness. If the tape shows you acting suspicious or looking around nervously, the jury won't believe you. What you really need is a good defense attorney.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 9/29/2011
    Goolsby Law Office
    Goolsby Law Office | Richard Goolsby
    Generally, it can be difficult to get shoplifting charges dropped, but we recommend you retain a criminal lawyer ASAP to help you with your rights and options.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 7/8/2013
    Alanna D. Coopersmith, Attorney at Law
    Alanna D. Coopersmith, Attorney at Law | Alanna D. Coopersmith
    Yes! Intent is required. If no evidence of intent, fight the charges.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 9/29/2011
    Law Office of Phillip Weiser
    Law Office of Phillip Weiser | Phillip L. Weiser
    Those facts would need to be presented at a trial for the Judge to evaluate the presence of intent to deprive. I would doubt if the prosecutor would just drop the charges. Your attorney may be successful in convincing the prosecutor that the evidence is shaky and possibly get a reduction or a diversion.
    Answer Applies to: Kansas
    Replied: 9/29/2011
    Shane Law Office
    Shane Law Office | Robert J. Shane
    Yes, there is a good chance of getting the case dismissed. Like most criminal offenses, a theft charge requires that you intend to permanently deprive the owner of their property. Sounds like you were absent minded and simply forgot about the sunglasses in your pocket. The best advice would be to retain counsel to negotiate a continuance for dismissal of the charge based on meeting certain conditions. This procedure does not involve the entry of a guilty plea or jail. At the end of the continuance period, the charge against you is dismissed without a conviction. You could then file for an expungment and seal all of the case records.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 9/29/2011
    Peter Duarte, Attorney at Law
    Peter Duarte, Attorney at Law | Peter Duarte
    Since you did not have the intent to steal the glasses, it would be a bases of your defense. Getting a petty theft charge dismissed depends on a number of factors, such as, do you have a prior conviction for the same offense, statements you gave to the police and security officer. I would need more facts to give an assessment in dismissing your case.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 3/29/2012
    Cornish, Crowley, Rockafellow, & Sartz, PLLC
    Cornish, Crowley, Rockafellow, & Sartz, PLLC | Jacob Peter Sartz IV
    If you were charged with an offense, I'd strongly recommend that you retain an attorney to assist you or ask the court appoint you an attorney payable at the public's expense. This answer does not contain specific legal advice. If you need specific legal advice, please consult privately with an attorney. Speaking generally, intent is always an issue in criminal cases unless someone is charged with a "strict liability" crime. Even a small amount allegedly stolen could be charged as a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor conviction on your record will stay on your record for a long time, even if you only pay a small amount of fines and costs. Further, if you plead guilty or if you are convicted of a "crime of theft or dishonesty," that conviction may be used against you in a future legal proceeding to attack your credibility while testifying or it may be a substantial concern to a prospective employer. I'd recommend consulting with an attorney. If you cannot afford to retain an attorney, the court may appoint you one at the public's expense if one is available and if you meet the eligibility requirements. I would never recommend pleading guilty to any criminal offense unless you understand the possible consequences for a conviction.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 9/29/2011
    Law Office of Eric Sterkenburg
    Law Office of Eric Sterkenburg | Eric Sterkenburg
    This case is either going to settle for a lesser charge or go to trial. It will not be dismisses. At trial the D.A. will present his evidence that you had the intent to shoplift and you need to challenge that evidence and present your own.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 9/29/2011
    The Law Office of Cindy Barton
    The Law Office of Cindy Barton | Cindy Barton
    You may have a shot if you don't have any record and you have a prosecutor that believes that it was just an over sight. He may be willing to do a plea in abeyance where you pay a fee, complete a period of time with no violations of the law and then the charge is dismissed. Good luck.
    Answer Applies to: Utah
    Replied: 9/29/2011
    Law Office of Charles J. Block
    Law Office of Charles J. Block | Charles J. Block
    First, is there any video from the store; second, do you have any prior theft offenses; and third, what store did this take place in. All of these issues will factor into whether it is possible to have the charge dismissed.
    Answer Applies to: New Jersey
    Replied: 9/29/2011
    Law Office of Andrew Roberts
    Law Office of Andrew Roberts | Andrew Stephen Roberts
    There is no simple answer to your question. It might be possible to get it dismissed. If this is a first petty theft an attorney can most likely work out an alternative sentence which would lead to a dismissal. You need an attorney to deal with this. A theft charge has long lasting effects.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 9/29/2011
    Brucar & Yetter, P.C.
    Brucar & Yetter, P.C. | Wayne Brucar
    Dismissal can come two ways. One is by going to trial and being found not guilty, the other is getting into a deferred prosecution program. Different jurisdictions have various kinds of deferred prosecution.
    Answer Applies to: Illinois
    Replied: 9/29/2011
    AyerHoffman, LLP
    AyerHoffman, LLP | David C. Ayer
    If it is your first offense it is likely you can get pre-trial probation, a continuance without a finding, or a dismissal. You should retain a criminal defense attorney to assist you in dealing with the prosecutor. It is not the prosecutor's job to help you in any way. The judge should prevent any patent unfairness, but you could still get a bad deal if you represent yourself.
    Answer Applies to: Massachusetts
    Replied: 9/29/2011
    Jonathan S. Willett Attorney at Law
    Jonathan S. Willett Attorney at Law | Jonathan S. Willett
    Maybe, but no likely. They may offer you a deferred judgment, which after probation, would result in a dismissal.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 9/29/2011
    Klisz Law Office, PLLC
    Klisz Law Office, PLLC | Timothy J. Klisz
    Not likely. Everyone charged with retail fraud says they forgot to pay. A jury would have to determine this at trial.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 9/29/2011
    Law Office of Joe Dane
    Law Office of Joe Dane | Joe Dane
    Mistakes do happen and the prosecution must prove every element of the case (including a specific intent to steal) beyond a reasonable doubt. Do I think they would just dismiss based on your say so? No. Could your lawyer, after a review of all the facts, witness statements and evidence? Maybe. This won't be a do-it-yourself project. You're facing theft charges which, if you're convicted, could have a devastating effect on your future. It's time for a good local criminal defense attorney. Look for one that routinely practices in the court where your case will be heard.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 9/29/2011
    Craig W. Elhart, P.C.
    Craig W. Elhart, P.C. | Craig Elhart
    The case may not get dismissed, however, your attorney could seek a dismissal from the prosecutor. If not dismissed, you will have to tell your side of the story at trial. It would then be up to the jury to determine whether your guilty or not.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 9/29/2011
    Theresa Hofmeister, Attorney At Law
    Theresa Hofmeister, Attorney At Law | Theresa Hofmeister
    Yes there is a chance. Depends on your attorney mainly.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/19/2013
    Austin Legal Services, PLC
    Austin Legal Services, PLC | Jared Austin
    It's possible. You could make a motion to dismiss or convince the prosecutor that no jury would convict under the circumstances. You may also be eligible for a diversion program which could keep the conviction off your public record. Be sure to speak to an attorney before agreeing to anything.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 9/29/2011
    Anderson Law Office
    Anderson Law Office | Scott L. Anderson
    There is always a chance but it may or may not be easy. You need to seek representation to try to get the case dismissed or work out a resolution that doesn't go on your record.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 9/29/2011
    Law Office of Kathryn L. Hudson
    Law Office of Kathryn L. Hudson | Kathryn L. Hudson
    If you have no prior criminal history a good case could be made, if the store will not drop it I'd hire an attorney and fight it. If the case is weak they may not want the negative publicity.
    Answer Applies to: Arkansas
    Replied: 9/29/2011
    Bensmochan & Poghosyan, LLP
    Bensmochan & Poghosyan, LLP | Ruzanna Poghosyan
    If you order the surveillance tape and it supports your position or if you can prove that you did not have the intent to steal at the time of taking the items, then you have a good chance of dismissing the case.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 9/29/2011
    Law Offices of John Carney
    Law Offices of John Carney | John Carney
    I do not believe that you did not intend to steal the glasses. Perhaps you are telling the truth, but I have that heard that story a thousand times and it is very unlikely. If it is your first offense and you retain a good criminal attorney you will probably be able to have the charge dismissed. If you are in a store and you place anything in your pocket for any reason you are very foolish, and that is the next worst thing to being a thief, either way you risk a criminal conviction that will cost you your reputation and your career. The store did not believe you, the police did not believe you, and the jury will not believe you....try to make better decisions in the future.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 9/29/2011
    The McDonnell Law Firm, PLLC
    The McDonnell Law Firm, PLLC | Patrick J. McDonnell
    There's always a chance for dismissal, usually in the form of an ACD (Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal) which means that if you lead a law-abiding life and don't get re-arrested within (usually) a six month period, the charge is dismissed. The specifics of the arrest will definitely factor into whether you will get this (giving the police officer a hard time, cooperativeness, intent, etc) Also, any prior arrests will go against you in negotiating a plea. You may consider speaking with an attorney first.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 9/29/2011
    The Law Office of Harry E. Hudson, Jr.
    The Law Office of Harry E. Hudson, Jr. | Harry E. Hudson, Jr.
    I doubt it. Did you have money to pay for the sunglasses? If so, jury might believe you, DA if coaxed by a good attorney, might wait a few months and dismiss if you do not get into other trouble. Bbut this is a suggestion to be made in chambers where you won't go.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 9/29/2011
    Betts Legal Services
    Betts Legal Services | Shawn M. Betts
    The more likely outcome is a petty misdemeanor which is not a crime under Minnesota law, or some sort of disposition that will keep the charge off your record, such as a diversion program, a stay of adjudication, or a continuance for dismissal.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 9/29/2011
    Law Office of Jeff Yeh
    Law Office of Jeff Yeh | Jeff Yeh
    There is a chance, but you will need an attorney to show your lack of criminal intent. If you present this defense by yourself, you will be laughed out of court by both the prosecutor and the Judge.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 9/29/2011
    Beaulier Law Office
    Beaulier Law Office | Maury Beaulier
    It would be very unusual for a prosecutor to simply dismiss a charge that has been filed. A theft offense can be very serious. While any theft under $500 is a misdemeanor. Such an offense is still punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $1000 fine. The collateral consequences of a conviction can also be extremely significant and preclude a person from finding employment where background checks are performed. Often, if you have no prior offenses, a conviction can be avoided with a Stay of Prosecution. A Stay of Prosecution means that the offense is never recorded on your record and stayed for a certain period of time to ensure that you do not have another offense.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 9/29/2011
    Law Office of Jared Altman
    Law Office of Jared Altman | Jared Altman
    Probably not. But if it's your first offense then maybe they will adjourn it for some time and then dismiss it if you stay out of trouble.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 9/29/2011
    Freeborn Law Offices, P.S.
    Freeborn Law Offices, P.S. | Steve Freeborn
    How hard it is to get the charge dismissed depends upon the facts of the case, how aggressive the prosecutor wishes to be, and your prior criminal history (especially if you have any prior theft charges). If you have a clean record there are other possible options like: a deferred sentence, deferred findings, stipulated order of continuance. These are things yopu should discuss with an attorney.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 9/29/2011
    The Zwiebel Law Firm, LLC
    The Zwiebel Law Firm, LLC | Elizabeth Zwiebel
    Shoplifting in Alabama is punishable by a fine and jail time. The intent to steal is vital but presumed once the merchandise leaves the defined area where ownership of the property should be exchanged by a purchase. So, true intent to steal does not necessarily mean mental intent. Intent in these cases is taken from actions alone. So accidentally taking merchandise out of the store usually does not relieve the person of being charged with shoplifting. These cases depend heavily on a person's prior criminal history. If it is a first time offense there may be an opportunity to drop the case with court fines and costs. A dismissal in these cases may or may not require community service depending on the jurisdiction. An attorney can usually negotiate with the local prosecutor and work out a favorable outcome that judges will accept. The problem is there is an old civil law on the books that some retailers use to get people to pay a penalty. This law does not even require the property to leave the premises. It is routinely used by the "discount" stores in Alabama. So, even if the criminal charge is dismissed the "discount" store may still seek damages in a civil suit usually for $200 or more dollars.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 9/29/2011
    The Umansky Law Firm
    The Umansky Law Firm | William D. Umansky
    It is possible but you will need to hire an aggressive lawyer and be willing to go to trial.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 7/8/2013
    Palumbo and Kosofsky
    Palumbo and Kosofsky | Michael Palumbo
    Yes, there is a good chance that our law firm can get the charges dismissed.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 6/3/2013
    John Segelbaum, P.S.
    John Segelbaum, P.S. | John Segelbaum
    To convict you of theft, the proseutor must prove intent to steal. Unfotunately, you probably have to present that defense to a jury. Better to pay the civil penalty to the store and move to dismiss pursuant to the compromise of misdemeanor law.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 9/29/2011
    The Chastaine Law Office
    The Chastaine Law Office | Michael Chastaine
    no intent to steal is a defense. Had to say how hard it will be to get the DA to dismiss but certainly worth the effort.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 9/29/2011
    The Law Offices of Gabriel Dorman
    The Law Offices of Gabriel Dorman | Gabriel Dorman
    It's not only possible but, more importantly, essential as a petty theft conviction will have long lasting and devastating consequences to your future including disqualifying you from future employment opportunities. Ultimately, what is possible will depend on all of the facts and circumstances of your case. That being said, your best chance of obtaining a dismissal is to hire and experienced criminal defense attorney which is really what you should do. I hope this answer was helpful. Good luck.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 9/29/2011
    Baner and Baner
    Baner and Baner | Jonathan Baner
    Of course there is a chance. Is it a great chance? Maybe and maybe not. If the store agrees that it seems to be a mistake, then you'd be far more likely. You should really be talking to your attorney about these things though. good luck!
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 9/29/2011
    Mark Thiessen, Attorney at Law
    Mark Thiessen, Attorney at Law | Mark Thiessen
    Depends on the DA, the Judge and the jurisdiction. You may qualify for a pre-trial intervention or a deferred adjudication probation which have the affect of dismissal. Regardless, you are going to need a skilled lawyer to handle this and get you these great deals.
    Answer Applies to: Texas
    Replied: 9/29/2011
    Law Offices of Elliott Zarabi
    Law Offices of Elliott Zarabi | Elliott Zarabi
    Yes, you may be able to get them dismissed. A few things that would come into play, how old you are, how much the sun glasses were, and whether you are in school or not.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 9/29/2011
    THE LAMPEL FIRM
    THE LAMPEL FIRM | ERIC LAMPEL
    Yes of course. Hire a good lawyer.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/3/2013
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