How We Do It: The Case of the “Stolen” Groceries

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The Client: Nicole Goodmom*

The Charges: Theft

The Result: Case Dismissed!

The Allegation: Nicole Goodmom was a hardworking mother of several small children. All day long she was bombarded with questions, toys, tears and screams. However, one day a week she had a couple hours of peace. Every Saturday morning, Nicole went to the grocery store, all alone, and got a chance to breath. Nicole surely loved her family, but she needed the change of pace and scenery. While shopping alone, Nicole could lose herself in her thoughts, exploring them to completion. While shopping alone, Nicole could walk silently and aimlessly down every isle, enjoying the order of the shelves that she did not have time to appreciate while shopping with her kids. While shopping alone, Nicole enjoyed making decisions without a child interrupting her thoughts; she relished the ease of deciding what to put in the cart without an audience of toddlers voicing their own opinions. Shopping alone gave Nicole a feeling of control she was missing the rest of the week. The store was her oasis. Unfortunately, this relative paradise turned into a real-life nightmare when she was accused of theft. After a blissfully quite morning of shopping, Nicole used the self-checkout kiosk to complete her purchase. Unfortunately, two small produce items did not scan properly, and when Nicole attempted to leave the store she was aggressively confronted by the store’s loss prevention officer. Nicole apologized for the misunderstanding and offered to pay for the “stolen” goods, but the loss prevention officer chose to file charges over $5 worth of produce. Nicole ended up being charged with Theft, a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.

Why We Won: Nicole is the kind of person who would never have a run-in with the law. She always drives the speed limit, never jaywalks, and never takes more than one free sample. Up to that morning, Nicole had never had an accusatory finger pointed in her direction, so when she was unfairly accused of a crime it turned her world upside down. The case took a toll on her emotional and physical health. She would lay awake at night worrying about what would happen to her; she lost her appetite; she was petrified of the emotional toll of going to trial. She couldn’t understand how a mere accusation could result in risk to her reputation and freedom. That’s when Nicole made the decision to take control of her fate by hiring a criminal defense lawyer in Delaware.

Here at The Law Office of Brian Jones we take the time to truly understand our clients. We listen to their side of the story and offer emotional support. For Nicole, like for many of our clients, it was a devastating emotional shock to be treated with scorn and disdain by law enforcement and prosecutors. We made it known that we believed in her innocence and that we would do everything in our power to make the world believe it too. With our client consoled, it was time to move on to what we do best, investigation. We subpoenaed the grocery store for a video of incident, but suspiciously, no video of Nicole’s checkout existed. Without a store video it was Nicole’s word against the store’s and we had common sense on our side. Why would an upstanding citizen buy a sizeable amount of groceries, but then steal two inexpensive, inessential items? Isn’t it equally as likely that the self-scanning register malfunctioned? Who has not had an experience with a finicky machine that freezes up and robotically shouts that “a customer service representative has been notified to assist you”? The prosecutors dismissed the case citing the lack of a store video, but in reality they knew that this case was not going anywhere.

The Bottom Line: This case came down to sticking up for our client. Many criminal defense attorneys will look at a police officer and a loss prevention officer’s testimony with complete trust. Many attorneys fail to understand the sanctity of the government’s obligation to prove charges; the accused has nothing to prove. Nicole did nothing wrong other than use a faulty machine, yet she was treated with disrespect and disdain. We listened to her and helped her regain her sense of self; then we went after the people that stole her dignity (the only thing “stolen” in this case!)

In today’s society, you never know when you will be accused of a crime you did not commit, let it be shoplifting or even worse. No matter the accusation, you need someone in your corner who will stand up to police bias and over aggressive prosecution. At The Law Office of Brian Jones, LLC we don’t let anyone take advantage of our clients and that is why Nicole Goodmom is free to enjoy her peaceful Saturday morning shopping trips.

*Names have been changed for privacy and humor.

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