Originally Posted by karyn818
Not a good idea to post twice - gets confusing.
First, you sound stressed to the breaking point. I know it's easy for me to say but you have to take a deep breath first.
First, if you're in Canada the info on diversion is posted at the very bottom of what I've written. It's just about automatic and painless but you still have to explain things to the Crown Attorney.
If you are not in Canada: You may or may not get community service. Judges aren't the friendliest people in the World but they only want you to promise to never steal again. You will meet with the DA or Assistant DA and you can tell all of this to that person who will then make a recommendation to the Judge. It sounds like the Police were reasonable and, hopefully, the Court system will be, too.
Explain your concerns, how bad things are financially, how much you need some help and promise to never, never steal again. And mean it.
You do not need an Attorney - you just need to talk to the DA or ADA. I would be very surprised if the newspapers pick up something like this. And, yes, there is a really good possibility there will be no record. I would tell the DA or ADA all about your concerns.
So many people post and their only concern is that they got caught. You very obviously are punishing yourself over this. Everybody makes mistakes - it's what you do next with your life that matters.
So, again, take a deep breath, write down what you want to say to the DA or ADA - or Crown Prosecutor - and trust that they are mean ogres, that they are people who recognize other people with problems when they see them.
Here's the info on diversion (I'm quoting myself here):
Ontario diversion program guidelines vary from region to region, courthouse to Courthouse. Eligibility for such a program is ALWAYS determined by the Crown Attorney’s office. There are no exceptions. You are not required to have legal counsel in order to apply.
If the offense - theft - is not major (property was recovered, not a large amount, not a repeat offender) the Crown Attorney MAY approve eligibility into the diversion program prior to the Curt appearance.
If there are prior dealings with the Police - and charges do not have to be placed, any prior dealings of a negative nature - the person will most likely not be eligible for the diversion program.
As part of the diversion program the eligible person will have to agree to complete certain tasks or obligations - perhaps watch a video, make a donation or volunteer time to a not-for-profit, write a paper on the crime.
When the tasks/obligations have been competed to the satisfaction of the Crown’s Attorney he/she will recommend to the Judge that the criminal charge (usually, theft) be withdrawn.
Each courthouse in Ontario has a different diversion program and eligibility requirements differ from region to region. Eligibility for the diversion program is always determined by the Crown Attorney's office. If they deem a theft offence to be of a minor nature (usually a small quantity of merchandise was taken and the property was recovered), the Crown may pre-approve eligibility into the diversion program. A person will not generally be eligible for diversion if they have had prior dealings with the police (even if it did not result in a criminal charge being laid). Once in the diversion program, the eligible candidate may be asked to complete one of a number of different tasks. In some jurisdictions, a person charged with theft may be required to watch a video on shoplifting. In other jurisdictions they may be required to make a donation to charity or complete a minimum number of community service hours - or both. Regardless of the requirements, the result is usually the same. Once the diversion program has been completed to the satisfaction of the Crown Attorney, the Crown will recommend to the court that the criminal charge of theft be withdrawn against the accused person. This will result in the accused person maintaining a clean record (assuming they didn't have a prior criminal record).
If a person is not pre-screened as eligible for the diversion program, a lawyer may be able to convince a Crown Attorney to reconsider their decision.