My daughter was arrested for shoplifting in Alpharetta

Question: My daughter was arrested for shoplifting in Alpharetta over the weekend. They say she put things in her pocket and tried to walk out of the store without paying for it. When she was in the parking lot a store security official stopped her and told her to take the merchandise out of her pockets. Then the police came and she was arrested for shoplifting.

She told me that she just forgot that the clothes were in her pocket and that she just walked out to meet a friend. Then she realized that she had the stuff in her pockets and when she turned around to go back into the store, a store employee had already followed her outside.

She's charged with stealing some sox and a hair barrette.

With her arrest she's worried that she'll look like a thief to anyone who sees her record and that her future will be ruined. Employers don't want to hire a dishonest crook. She's a senior in high school and she wants to go to Georgia Tech to study computer science, finance or engineering.

What should we do to help her with the shoplifting charge? She's never been arrested before.

E.P. in Milton, Georgia

Answer: In Georgia, shoplifting can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the value of the merchandise allegedly stolen. It appears that the value of the goods that your daughter is charged with taking is less than $500, making it a misdemeanor. If it were over $500, then it would be charged as a felony.

Many misdemeanor shoplifting charges begin in a municipal court, in places like the Alpharetta Municipal Court, the Milton Municipal Court, the Roswell Municipal and the Woodstock Municipal Court. If necessary the case can be transferred from the municipal court to a state court. But many times we can work out a great deal for a defendant in the municipal court. We concentrate on getting clients the type of disposition that least impacts their future.

If the merchandise stolen is over $500 in value, then it can be charged as a felony and the case will be heard in a superior court.

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