Shoplifting is a serious problem in the United States. The country's largest supermarket chain Wal-Mart estimated annual losses of $3 billion as a result of this type of theft, so it's unsurprising that most retailers are keen to prosecute everyone caught in the act. Shoplifting in Arizona carries a variety of penalties, but if you want to avoid a criminal record, you may want your attorney to help you take advantage of a prosecution diversion program. Learn more about how these programs work, and find out if you are eligible for this type of intervention.
Shoplifting penalties in Arizona
If a court finds you guilty of shoplifting in Arizona, you could face one of several charges. For example, if you steal property worth less than $1,000, you may face a class 1 misdemeanor charge, but if you steal property when you already have two or more convictions in the past five years, you could end up with a class 4 felony charge.
Unsurprisingly, the penalties on these charges vary considerably, too. A class 1 misdemeanor could land you in jail for up to six months, but a class 4 felony charge could extend that term to three years. Fines can also range from $2,500 to $150,000. As such, if you face a shoplifting conviction, it's important to consider any prosecution diversion programs that are available to you.
How prosecution diversion programs work
A prosecution diversion means that the state authorities are willing to suspend your prosecution for a period of time, after which, subject to certain conditions, you will end up without a criminal conviction. During a diversion program, you may have to complete community service hours, attend relevant counseling sessions and pay a fine. Prosecution diversion programs are only available for certain criminal offenses, but this option is sometimes available to people who face a shoplifting charge.
There are no set rules about the duration or composition of diversion programs. In each case, eligible participants must first face an interview, during which the authorities will establish how long the person should stay in the program and what he or she needs to do to satisfy the authorities that the process was effective.
Eligibility for prosecution diversion programs
Prosecution diversion programs are generally only available for first-time offenders. If you already have a conviction for shoplifting or if you have previously completed one of these programs and you commit the offense a second or third time, the authorities will not accept your request for one of these programs. You must appear in court for a pre-trial arraignment, where the prosecutor will formally notify you of the charges made against you. During this arraignment, the prosecutor will also tell if you a diversion program is available to you.
The outcome of a prosecution diversion program
If you successfully complete one of these diversion programs, you will not have a criminal conviction at the end of the process. Clearly, this is a good outcome for the defendant because criminal convictions can make it harder to get jobs or take out financing. However, the authorities will still keep a record of your attendance. If you commit the offense a second time, a prosecutor may push for the most serious charge possible for the new conviction because it's clear you haven't reformed.
Probation works differently from a prosecution diversion program. Probation occurs following a criminal conviction, and the terms of a probation plan are generally different. Following a shoplifting charge, you may face unsupervised probation, but for a more serious offense, you may need to take part in supervised probation with stricter rules about regular meetings with a probation officer. First-time offenders who successfully pass a probation period can sometimes benefit from an expunged criminal record, but many people who complete this transition will still keep their conviction. In contrast, anyone who successfully completes a prosecution diversion program will walk away without a criminal conviction.
Prosecution diversion programs help first-time offenders in Arizona avoid a serious criminal conviction. Talk to a criminal attorney for more advice and information about how this type of program could help you. If you're facing similar charges in Indiana, contact a law firm like O'Brien & Dekker.