Articles Posted in Shoplifting

On April 29, 2024, ML, a 32 year old Indian woman, was caught shoplifting at a large department store in Cambridge. She had been shoplifting from that store for a considerable time and had now put in danger her ability to stay here in the U.S. She is in the U.S. on a student visa, and shoplifting (larceny) is a deportable offense. In May of 2024 she was due to graduate from one of the most prestigious universities in Boston with a graduate degree. ML contacted Attorney Robert Lewin from Andover. Attorney Lewin explained in detail the deportation consequences of a shoplifting conviction and he explained the importance of immediately opening a conversation with the police. ML retained Attorney Lewin.

Attorney Lewin immediately contacted the police prosecutor from Cambridge and then Attorney Lewin was able to speak with the actual officer who was investigating ML’s case and who would make the decision about prosecuting the case in court. Because ML had contacted Attorney Lewin immediately after being caught and before any court action had been begun, there was a chance (non-existent in most cases) that the case could be stopped BEFORE any court action was begun by the police (or the store). On May 17, 2024, after several productive conversations with the police, the police agreed NOT to bring any charges against ML, provided she stay out of the store for one year and provided that she pay $985 in restitution to the store. ML paid the restitution that same day. ML then attended her graduation!

It is very unusual to be able to “kill” one of these shoplifting cases at the “police station” level without the case going to a Clerk-Magistrate hearing. As a result of this disposition, Attorney Lewin explained the following to ML.

On August 22, 2023, QG, a 48 year old executive administrator for a high tech company, got caught shoplifting in Target in Danvers. She had picked up a number of items and went to the self check out machine. She put several low cost items thorough the scanner and simply put the other items in a shopping bag without scanning them or paying for them. She then headed for the exit. As she was leaving the store she was stopped by a loss prevention officer and returned into the store. Unfortunately for QG, she had been observed shoplifting on prior occasions and the loss prevention officer recognized her from previous video tapes. The Danvers police were called to the store and told QG that she would receive a notice from Salem District Court.  QG then received a Notice of a Clerk-Magistrate Hearing to take place on October 24, 2023. QG became very concerned that if her employer learned of this that she would be fired. QG contracted several lawyers and had a free initial zoom consult (1 1/2 hours) with Attorney Robert Lewin from Andover. QG retained Attorney Lewin.

Attorney Lewin immediately obtained copies of all the court papers and police reports. Attorney Lewin then called the Police Prosecutor and advocated with the prosecutor to resolve the case at the Clerk-Magistrate Hearing without a criminal complaint issuing against QG.

On October 24, 2023 Attorney Lewin and QG appeared at Salem District Court for the hearing. Attorney Lewin advocated for the clerk to not issue a criminal complaint against QG. The Clerk-Magistrate asked the prosecutor for his input. The prosecutor told the Clerk that he had spoken with Attorney Lewin and that he had no objection to a criminal complaint not issuing against QG. The Clerk-Magistrate then said he would continue the hearing for 3 months without issuing a criminal complaint and if there were no reports of QG breaking the criminal law then at the end of the three months no one had to come to court and the Application for Criminal Complaint would be denied and dismissed.

SV, a 39 year old Nigerian alien, was caught shoplifting on December 2, 2022 at Macy’s in Saugus. Unfortunately for SV, she was known to the loss prevention personnel at Macy’s as someone who had stolen from the store on previous occasions but had not been caught. The police charged SV and because she had a prior history at the store the police requested that the Clerk-Magistrate at Lynn District Court issue a criminal complaint against SV without affording her a clerk-magistrate hearing first. The clerk-magistrate granted the request of the police and SV received a summons in the mail to appear for an arraignment at Lynn District Court on April 4, 2023.  SV consulted with and retained Attorney Robert Lewin from Andover. Because of her status as an alien, having a record for shoplifting (a crime of moral wrongdoing) could lead to her being deported from the country and being denied citizenship.

Attorney Lewin immediately went to work on the case and obtained all the police reports. Most persons charged with shoplifting are afforded a clerk-magistrate hearing before a criminal complaint is issued. Many of these shoplifting cases get resolved favorably at the Clerk-Magistrate Hearing without a criminal complaint being issued.   In SV’s case however, the criminal complaint against her had been issued without a hearing. The complaint was scheduled for an arraignment and it is the taking place of the arraignment that causes a criminal record to be created. And it is the creation of a criminal record for shoplifting that would create big problems for SV as an alien. It became very important for Attorney Lewin to try to avoid the arraignment from taking place.

Attorney Lewin prepared a lengthy motion (written request) to dismiss the charge against SV without the arraignment taking place. Attorney Lewin sent a copy of the Motion to the District Attorney’s Office before the scheduled arraignment date.  On April 4, 2023 SV and Attorney Lewin appeared in Lynn District Court. Attorney Lewin met with the Assistant District Attorney handling the case and explained the devastating effects having a criminal record would have on SV. Attorney Lewin asked the Assistant District Attorney to agree to dismiss the case without the arraignment taking place. The Assistant District Attorney agreed.

On October 2, 2021, NS, a 38 year old alien (green card holder) from India was caught shoplifting in Macy’s in Saugus. Macy’s had her on video and actually had her on video on three prior occasions shoplifting in the store. The loss prevention officer escorted NS back to the security office and the Saugus Police were called. The Saugus Police took her information and did not arrest her; they told her she would receive a notice from the Lynn District Court.

NS and her husband began a search for a lawyer. NS and her husband consulted with and retained Attorney Robert Lewin from Andover. Attorney Lewin explained how lucky NS was that the police did not arrest her. They could have and then she would have been fingerprinted and she would have to appear before a Judge and a criminal record would have been created. Attorney Lewin immediately contacted the Saugus Police Prosecutor to request that the case be set up for a Clerk-Magistrate Hearing. This was done.

Attorney Lewin recognized that NS had a serious problem. NS completely lacked the ability to see the situation she was in. NS kept saying it was an accident and a mistake. Attorney Lewin pointed out that stealing merchandise four times from the same store was not an accident or mistake. On four different occasions NS had gone into the store with the intention to steal; she had picked up merchandise, placed it into a bag, then hidden the merchandise under other items in the bag, and then walked out of the store without paying.  Those were all intentional acts that required planning and execution. Attorney Lewin explained to NS and her husband that if Attorney Lewin tried to sell her behavior to the police prosecutor and the Clerk-Magistrate as an “accident or mistake” that the police would not cooperate nor would the Clerk-Magistrate.

On Friday, August 21, 2020 two 18 year old twins got caught shoplifting at Walmart in Tewksbury. The police were called to the store and the twins were arrested. They were bailed from the Tewksbury Police station and told to appear in Lowell District Court on Monday, August 24, 2020. Over that weekend the twins met with and retained Attorney Robert Lewin from Andover. Attorney Lewin explained that the twins would qualify for the Middlesex County District Attorney’s Young Adult diversion program. The program essentially allows young adults to avoid prosecution for certain criminal offenses.

Over that weekend Attorney Lewin prepared a Motion to Divert the cases out of the criminal court system. On Monday, August 24, 2020 the twins and Attorney Lewin appeared in Lowell District Court. At Attorney Lewin’s request neither girl was arraigned. This is important because it is the taking place of the arraignment that creates a criminal record. Instead the cases were referred to the diversion program and the cases were continued to October 8, 2020 to see if the Diversion Program would accept the twins.  On October 8, 2020 everyone appeared virtually (the twins had gone off to college and were away from Lowell) and the Assistant District Attorney and Attorney Lewin reported to the Judge that the twins had been accepted into the Diversion Program. On October 8, 2020 the arraignment again did not take place and the cases were continued until April 5, 2021 to allow the twins to complete the diversion program.

The twins successfully completed the diversion program. On April 5, 2021 the twins and Attorney Lewin appeared virtually one last time before the Court. The Assistant District Attorney and Attorney Lewin reported to the Judge that both young women had successfully completed the Diversion Program. The Judge then ordered both cases DISMISSED, prior to arraignment. Attorney Lewin explained to the two young women that because the cases were dismissed prior to any arraignment taking place the following took place:

On March 1, 2020, RL, a 22 year old senior at a prestigious local university, went into a market in Waltham and stole (shoplifted) about $36.00 worth of merchandise. She got caught. RL is a Chinese National here on a student visa. She saw her life passing in front of her: she jeopardized her graduation and degree from the University and she jeopardized her ability to return to the United States if she left the U.S. and then tried to return. RL contacted and retained Attorney Robert Lewin from Andover. Attorney Lewin told RL that if the case were handled carefully then prosecution could possibly be avoided. Shortly after March 1 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic RL was forced o return to China.

Attorney Lewin requested a Clerk-Magistrate hearing. The hearing was scheduled for April 2, 2020 but because of the pandemic had to be rescheduled three times. Attorney Lewin spoke at length with the police prosecutor from Waltham and explained the situation that RL had put herself in.  Attorney Lewin advocated for the police to dismiss their application for criminal complaint.

On Thursday, October 29, 2020 a virtual (via zoom) Clerk-Magistrate Hearing was held at Waltham District Court. Attorney Lewin explained RL’s situation and (as Attorney Lewin had requested) the police prosecutor told the Clerk-Magistrate that the police were withdrawing their application for criminal complaint. This was the best of all possible results.

On September 8, 2018, NB, a 48 year old Lebanese woman from Lawrence, went into the Stop & Shop Supermarket in Methuen and put $157.24 worth of food into her shopping cart. She then proceeded to walk out the door of the store without paying for the food. NB was stopped by a store loss prevention officer and the Methuen Police were called. NB was charged with shoplifting. On November 1, 2018 NB appeared at Lawrence District Court for a Clerk-Magistrate Hearing. Until about one year ago these shoplifting cases in Lawrence District Court were routinely disposed of at a Clerk-Magistrate hearing without a criminal complaint being issued. Over the last year the Clerk-Magistrates have been issuing criminal complaints in shoplifting cases where the amount in question is over $100 or in cases where the evidence suggests that the accused has engaged in shoplifting before. The Clerk-Magistrate issued a complaint against NB and she had to return to Court for an Arraignment on November 29, 2018. NB retained Attorney Robert Lewin from North Andover. On November 29, 2018 NB appeared in Lawrence District Court and after a brief conference between her lawyer and the Assistant District Attorney the shoplifting charge was ordered dismissed. NB left the court very relieved.

It is important to understand that in Lawrence District Court the Clerk-Magistrates now look closely at the evidence in these shoplifting cases and will often issue a criminal complaint.

TQ, a 29 year old woman from India with a degree in Computer Science, was apprehended on February 14, 2017 at a store at the Burlington Mall and charged with Larceny Over $250.00. The charge arose out of her stealing a $425.00 pair of designer sunglasses. Normally, stealing at the mall results in a charge of shoplifting (a misdemeanor). In this case, however, the police charged her with Larceny Over $250 (a felony). TQ consulted with and retained Attorney Robert Lewin from North Andover. Fortunately for TQ the police set the charge up for a hearing before a Clerk-Magistrate. This is critical. The police have three choices at the outset of a criminal case: (1) the Police can arrest the individual in which event the person is brought before a Judge for an arraignment on a criminal complaint and a criminal record is created; (2) the Police can release the individual without an arrest and have the court issue a criminal complaint and a summons for the person to come to court for an arraignment in which event a criminal record is created; or (3) the Police can chose not to arrest and not to summons the person to court but rather the police can file an application for a criminal complaint with the Clerk-Magistrate of the Court and request that the Clerk-Magistrate set the application down for a hearing before a Clerk-Magistrate. This third option – which is rarely used when the criminal charge is a felony – gives the accused person a chance to avoid prosecution and avoid a criminal record. In this third option the Clerk decides whether or not a criminal complaint (and summons) will actually be issued against the accused. That is the option the police chose with TQ.

Immediately after being retained Attorney Lewin contacted the store and he contacted the police prosecutor. Attorney Lewin confirmed that the matter was going to be set down for a Clerk-Magistrate Hearing. Attorney Lewin sent the Police Prosecutor a lengthy email setting forth TQ’s family and educational and employment background and the fact that she had never been in trouble before. It was critical to TQ to avoid a criminal record – especially for felony larceny; NO ONE wants to hire a thief and having a Larceny charge on your criminal record brands you as a thief. Attorney Lewin advocated hard with the Police Prosecutor to agree to a disposition of the case that did NOT involve a criminal complaint being issued against TQ.

On March 28, 2017 TQ and Attorney Lewin appeared in Woburn District Court for a Clerk-Magistrate Hearing. Attorney Lewin made a strong pitch to the Clerk-Magistrate not to issue a criminal complaint against TQ. Attorney Lewin was successful in getting the police to agree to ask the Clerk-Magistrate not to issue a criminal complaint. At the end of the Hearing the Clerk-Magistrate continued the hearing for four months and ordered that if TQ remained out of trouble then in four months she did not have to return to court and the application for criminal complaint would be denied and dismissed. As a result of this disposition Attorney Lewin explained to TQ the following;

On August 12, 2016 BT, a 42 year old Registered Nurse from Salem, NH, was in TJ Maxx in North Andover, MA and she was stopped by store security and charged with shoplifting. She had gone into the store to return several items and to purchase several other items. While making the purchase two cosmetic items ended up in her bag without having been paid for. The problem for BT was that she was on probation in Peabody District Court for her last shoplifting case and that she had two more older shoplifting cases on her record. In addition to that, she had two additional theft charges on her record from out of state. On August 16, 2016 she appeared in Lawrence District Court for an arraignment and was then told to report to Peabody Court for a probation violation hearing. She went to Peabody Court and the Judge in Peabody Court locked her up for four days. Not wanting to go to jail for the new case in Lawrence District Court BT consulted with and retained Attorney Robert Lewin from North Andover. Attorney Lewin, after reviewing the facts, encouraged BT to fight the new charge and go to trial. It seemed to Attorney Lewin that she was not guilty and that the evidence would prove she was not guilty. All of BT’s prior shoplifting cases had been continued without a finding. BT was concerned that a guilty finding would cause her nursing license to be suspended or revoked. It was clear to Attorney Lewin (and to BT) that BT had mental health issues. Attorney Lewin had BT furnish to Attorney Lewin all her mental health records for the last three years. Once Attorney Lewin had the mental health records the picture became very clear. BT had lead a very normal productive life for her first 39 years. She had no criminal record anywhere. She had graduated from college and was a very bright and productive nurse. Then at age 39 she became ill mentally and was diagnosed with manic-depressive syndrome and personality disorder. She was treated with medications and it was during this time that she accumulated no less than six criminal offenses. Following her four day stay at MCI Framingham (the women’s prison) BT determined to never put herself in this position again. She consulted with her doctors and her medication levels were adjusted.

BT told Attorney Lewin that if he could get the case continued without a finding she wanted to plead. Even though Attorney Lewin encouraged BT to go to trial, BT was adamant that she did not want to go to trial but wanted to try to get another continuance without a finding. BT understood that the likelihood of getting a fourth offense continued without a finding was very slim – particularly in light of the fact that BT was on probation for her third offense when this case happened. Attorney Lewin met with the Assistant District Attorney; the DA’s Office was willing to recommend Probation on a plea with a guilty finding.

On October 31, 2016 BT and Attorney Lewin appeared in Lawrence District Court and BT admitted to sufficient facts (similar to a guilty plea). The DA recommended a guilty finding with probation. Attorney Lewin made an impassioned plea to the Judge that BT’s repeated shoplifting was the result of her mental illness and her medications not being properly adjusted. Attorney Lewin pointed out that these issues were being firmly addressed. Attorney Lewin also pointed out that BT had spent 4 days in MCI Framingham and that was a learning experience – to say  the least. In the end the Judge adopted Attorney Lewin’s argument and continued the case without a finding. This result avoided a conviction and avoided the Board of Registration in Nursing from taking any action against BT’s nursing license.

KM, an eighteen year old college student, was caught shoplifting at Kohl’s in North Andover on February 13, 2016. She had picked up make-up to the tune of $190.00 and hidden it in her coat pocket. Unfortunately for her a loss prevention officer was watching her on video and saw everything. She headed passed the registers and out the door of the store without paying and was stopped by the loss prevention people and brought back into the store. The North Andover police were called and responded to the store. Subsequently, KM received a Notice of Complaint Hearing from Lawrence District Court. KM and her Mother consulted with and retained Attorney Robert Lewin from North Andover. Attorney Lewin consulted immediately with the police prosecutor from North Andover. KM wrote out a letter of apology to Kohl’s and Attorney Lewin furnished a copy to the police prosecutor. In addition KM went to speak with a counselor. On March 24, 2016 KM and Attorney Lewin appeared in Lawrence District Court for a hearing before the Clerk-Magistrate. The Clerk-Magistrate found probable cause to issue a criminal complaint against KM, but referred her to the Essex County Diversion Program. The Diversion Program – if successfully completed – causes the criminal case to be “diverted” out of the criminal justice system and NO criminal record is created. In KM’s case the diversion program will require KM to complete 15 Hours of Community Service, write an essay, and meet with a counselor. As a result of this disposition KM will have NO criminal record. KM and her Mother left the court house happy with the result.

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