If you are the clerk at the 7/11 around the corner from my home or my office, then you probably know me. Sometimes that convenience store price premium is worth not fighting the lines at HEB. Bottom line? If you’re the one behind the register, you probably recognize me.

Coffee in the morning, fountain drinks in the afternoon. My legal assistant now keeps me well stocked on Folgers and Cokes and Mountain Dews, but she wasn’t always around – and that’s only #168 on the list of ‘why I appreciate her’. But as usual, I digress.

So, I used to go to the closest Stop-N-Rob on a regular basis, and that sets the scene for the rest of this story.

One day, while preparing for eating lunch by myself, I stopped by the 7/11. I was planning on perusing the magazine counter, so I would have something to do while lunching alone.

Probably out of habit, I went and filled up a monster fountain drink. I’ve always been a sucker for that “Yes, it’s twice as much as you need, but it’s only 20 cents more” marketing. Then over to the magazine rack, to see what there was to offer.

Ever notice that there’s really not much worth reading or that catches your fancy in those magazines? Why do they only stock People, and Star, and Monster Truck Madness Review? 

Maybe the Economist. Or Consumer Reports, but no, those are unavailable. And they cost 5 to 6 dollars? I don’t need any of these.

So I walked out to the car.

And as I started to put my keys in the door, I had a mini-heart attack.

I had just deliberately and obviously walked in, filled up a soda, and walked out without paying.

Now, here’s why my story – thankfully for my sake – diverges from some of my potential clients.

No one had seen me. Barney Fife hadn’t just parked his patrol vehicle. I ran back in immediately, stood in line, and even the clerk didn’t say anything.

He hadn’t noticed.

But…

I had walked out the door without paying. If I had been not just absent minded, but unlucky as well, my bar card could have been at stake.

Worst case realistic scenario, I would have been ticketed, not even arrested for Class C Theft. But what then? Take the ‘deferred disposition’ and get the hell out of Dodge with my ‘guaranteed’ dismissal? Expunge the whole thing. Forget about it.

Or roll the dice at jury trial, and hope my side of the story held up? Risking a conviction for theft – a crime of moral turpitude, and a conviction that could cost me my livelihood.

I think about that scenario often – when I tell my clients the “Do X, Y and Z and get your case dismissed” offer. Is that a good deal or not, when you are factually innocent, but the potential testimony at trial could get you convicted?

More on several related topics soon.

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  • Just reading about it gave me chills!! Just because security guards aren’t going to buy this whole ‘absence of the requisite mens rea’ theory.

    Good job no one saw you! :))

  • When I was in the Air Force I knew a Major with 15 years service who was kicked out because he walked out of the base exchange with a greeting card that cost $2.

    Same thing, he’d be distracted and wasn’t thinking.

  • Chuck Rosenthal

    This whole story is a lie, right? Obviously, you meant to steal the coke all along, but backed out at the last minute because you probably saw a cop car go by. Or maybe you had an attack of conscience. No, that couldn’t be it, you’re a criminal defense lawyer …

  • No, he’s an “Austin criminal defense lawyer” and a “Austin criminal defense attorney” who specializes in “austin DWI”. (That will be $2.50, please).

  • Thanks Chuck. Methinks the Distict Attorney doth protest too much, but what do I know…

  • Looks like you got off easy compared to this guy, who did pretty much the same thing.

    http://consumerist.com/377363/man-jailed-after-forgetting-case-of-soda-underneath-shopping-cart

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  • Dont ask

    wow. that’s amazing.

  • Dan

    Why would you need to roll the dice at a trial if doing a Def. Disp + Expunction will give you the same result in the end, assuming the jury finds you innocent?

  • John

    Well, I need your advice.
    I was charged with class B misdemeanor theft for shoplifting, the amount was $330 and the items were found on me.
    I was released on bail of $3000
    What can be done in order not to have this on my record?

  • John, the first thing I would advise is to hire a good local attorney familiar with shoplifting charges. Get some character reference letters together and your lawyer can likely negotiate a diversion to keep the theft off your record.

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