Legal Question in Civil Rights Law in California

My friend and I went to Walmart to buy things because she was moving. She had a list and said I need these things. So I helped her by putting things in her basket that she needed. We bought some things and left the store. On the way out we were stopped because the guy noticed she was putting stuff into her purse. The guy asked us to come with him. I had no idea my friend was stealing I just though we came to Walmart to get some items. When they put us in the room they asked for us to empty our pockets. My friend dumped out her purse which had $47 worth of stuff. I had nothing on me. They said I was guilty by association because I was putting things in the basket that she ended up stealing. I had no idea she was stealing. If you check the cameras I didnt see her put anything in her purse and I had nothing on me. I work for Walmart and they fired me because of it. Again I had no idea my friend was stealing. Why would I risk my job and go to the same store I worked for. I received in the mail a restitution letter saying I owe money to Walmart because of what I did, but I had no idea my friend was doing that and there is nothing on the camera that shows I put anything in my pocket because when they asked me to empty my pockets I had nothing on me. Is there a way I can fight this because I did nothing wrong and had no idea and yet I am being charged.

Asked on 12/03/11, 7:38 pm

2 Answers from Attorneys

George Shers Law Offices of Georges H. Shers

You seem to have a strong case since there is no evidence of your stealing or helping anyone steal. The problem may be that there might not be much value in the case since your wages at the Union City Walmart were probably low and there were no fringe benefits to lose. But many juries do not like corporations and especially Walmart so the case might have a significant value. An attorney specializing in employment law [there are two firms in Oakland who do so] could give yo a better idea of the case value. You might want to start merely by trying to get WalMart to rehire you based upon a letter from an attorney as to their lack of basis for there actions. I could do that, although I am not an employment law specialist, and you should certainly also consult someone who is.

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Answered on 12/04/11, 12:04 am

Terry A. Nelson Nelson & Lawless

Of course you can fight the charges with the defenses you discuss. However, you potentially face charges from simple shoplifting to felony burglary. You’ll learn the actual charge[s] and enhancements filed and get copies of all the police reports when appearing for arraignment at the first court hearing. The prosecutors can amend at any time they believe they can prove additional or different charges. The charges determine how much ‘time’ and fines could potentially be imposed if convicted.

If you don't know how to represent yourself effectively against an experienced prosecutor intending to convict, then hire an attorney that does, who will try to get a dismissal, diversion program, reduction, or other decent outcome through plea bargain, or take it to trial if appropriate.

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Answered on 12/04/11, 9:12 am

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