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Diversion Programs for First-Time Shoplifters in Illinois

 Posted on September 15, 2023 in Retail Theft

sIL defense lawyerBeing arrested for shoplifting can be a terrifying wake-up call, especially for first-time offenders who made a foolish mistake. While retail theft charges must be taken seriously, some first-time shoplifters may qualify for pretrial diversion programs that can lead to dismissal of charges. For the right candidates, diversion provides an opportunity to get your life back on track with an Illinois attorney.

What is Diversion and How Can it Help?

Diversion programs are designed to give alternatives to criminal prosecution for select defendants. With retail theft diversion, instead of going through a traditional conviction and sentencing, eligible shoplifters enter into agreements that impose certain requirements. By completing classes, community service, counseling, and restitution as required, you can earn dismissal of the charges.

Diversion provides a second chance. There is no permanent criminal record that could haunt future job or education prospects. Diversion helps first-timers avoid license suspensions, harsher future sentences, and other penalties a conviction brings. Most importantly, it gives you an opportunity to reflect on mistakes and make better choices moving forward.

Not Everyone Will Qualify for Diversion

Shoplifting diversion is only offered to first-time offenders accused of lower-level theft crimes. Violent offenders who used weapons or force to steal will not be eligible. The value and type of merchandise allegedly taken will also be factors. Prosecutors have discretion in determining who qualifies for diversion opportunities.

If you do qualify, both the prosecutor and the retailer must agree to allow diversion rather than pressing charges. Your attitude will impact whether they feel you are ready to change your ways. Diversion is there to help, but only for those who show accountability rather than defiance.

What to Expect During the Diversion Process

Once offered diversion, you will sign an agreement outlining requirements designed to reform while also making amends. For shoplifters, restitution to repay what was stolen will likely be part of the deal. Community service hours may be imposed to give back to society. Counseling provides help changing self-destructive thought patterns that contribute to criminal acts. Drug or alcohol treatment could be required depending on the root causes. Finally, staying arrest-free throughout diversion is mandatory.

The terms are tailored to each defendant based on an assessment of what is needed to turn things around. While diversion has requirements, they pale in comparison to the lifelong struggles of a conviction.

Completing Diversion is Crucial for Success

The prosecutor and court will closely monitor compliance with all diversion terms. Once satisfied you have adhered to the agreement, the charges will be dismissed. Our criminal justice system believes in second chances for those ready to change.

However, failure to complete diversion could still lead to prosecution. That is why consulting an attorney when offered diversion is so important.

Contact a Cook County Criminal Defense Lawyer

You can get legal advice throughout the process with the help of an Illinois criminal defense attorney.  For the right first-time shoplifter, diversion provides a lifeline to avoid lasting consequences. A momentary mistake does not have to dictate the rest of your life. Call The Law Offices of Matthew R. Gebhardt, P.C. at 847-239-4703 to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation.

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