Q: I worked at Best Buy and stole some goods over the course of 2 months. They found $600 dollars-worth of goods and I told them there was more. They came to a dollar amount of $2500 in restitution that I must pay in installments over a course of one year. I was also charged with retail theft, it is my first offense. The police officer that took me in told me I would qualify for a ARD program. He also told me he put down $600 as the dollar value on the police statement. I guess he forgot about the 2500 in restitution, but Best Buy won’t forget that. I am very afraid, I had only positive intentions when I stole, it was to help pay for bills and mortgage for my mother, my father has been unemployed for years and money is extremely tight. I made a terrible mistake and I’m paying the price for it. (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: This happens to me in theft cases all the time. My client tells me it was a lower amount than what the victim is demanding. If the victim and prosecution are offering a way out of this without having a record, like ARD, you have no choice. Unless of course, you have a really good defense. My approach to these cases, is to have the charges dismissed for full restitution at the preliminary hearing. This gives my client the opportunity to use ARD in the future in case they screw up again, as it is offered only once. If the victim and prosecution will not offer dismissal for restitution deal, then you have no choice but to go with ARD. The benefit for you is that you can question the restitution amount once the ARD offer is prepared and offered to you. In Allegheny County, the ARD paralegal, will call the victim and confirm how they arrived at their damages. Maybe the victim will adjust the amount. If not, you will have to eat the $2500 to get the benefit of ARD (no conviction/no record).