Can my daughter get into a shoplifting diversion program?

Question: My daughter was arrested for shoplifting in Alpharetta. I thought she had stopped doing that because we got her professional help. But over the weekend, she was arrested again. She said she wanted some clothes and she took them. She’s very impulsive and we all know that she needs help.

She’s in college at University of Georgia where she’s majoring in chemistry and she wants to be a doctor or a researcher. So she’s smart and she’s really good with people. But like I said, she’s very impulsive.

And this isn’t her first shoplifting arrest. She has been arrested in Atlanta and in Dunwoody. Each time she steals clothing or jewelry or makeup. And it’s always for small amounts. None of her prior arrests involved stealing of more than $100.

We really don’t want this theft charge to ruin her life. We’d like her to get into a diversion program or some kind of program where her record can’t be seen by future employers or graduate schools. She has a friend who can’t get a job because of her shoplifting arrests when she was younger and we know that even one shoplifting arrest can ruin your future.

What can she do? We need help with this shoplifting charge.

S.W. in Sandy Springs, GA

Answer: The good news is that she is being charged with a misdemeanor. In Georgia, the law, § 16-8-12, provides for a misdemeanor charge when the value of the shoplifted goods is less than $500.00. For theft of over $500.00 in goods, the charge then becomes a felony.

A problem that she faces in getting into some sort of diversion program is that this is not her first shoplifting arrest. In some courts, even one prior shoplifting arrest can make her ineligible for a program. Many prosecutors will not offer a program to someone who has a shoplifting charge on her record.

Please call us so we can assess her options and how to best handle her situation.

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