An extremely unlucky incident happened with my wife yesterday afternoon. On her way back to work after a lunch recess, she stopped at the JC Penny to look at some infant clothings. We have a seven-week old daughter at home who is looked after by my parents during daytime. After a six weeks of maternity leave, my wife joined her work about a week ago and being mother of a newborn is finding it somewhat difficult to stay focused when she is away from her baby for significant amount of time. At the JC Penny, she selected an infant blanket and few other infant garments the net worth of which was about forty dollars. She was not carrying any bag and only had a small women's purse with her. Obviously she was holding the merchandise in her hands in full view of everyone. As she made her way towards one of the smaller exists, she apparently became lost and oblivious of her possessions and went past the cash register. Although she was exiting the store her mind was probably at her baby and her work for which she was getting late. Without making any attempt to conceal the merchandise, she stepped out of the exit and was immediately stopped by the store security. I am sure that she was just about few seconds from realizing her mistake and would have definitely returned to pay for the items. She explained this to security and offered to pay for the items. The security people didn't believe her and took her to a room where she was photographed and the police was called. The police issued her a $355 fine-notice with "petty theft" charge on it. She is totally distraught after the incident and is feeling very low for causing this uninvited trouble.
I'd really like to see her get absolved but given the circumstances of the incident, I'd like to hear opinions about the merit of the case. Our other concern is the attorney's fees and whether it makes monetary sense to contest the charge. What happens if she chooses to pay the fine to bring this ordeal to an end? Will she still need to appear at the court? More importantly, will the charge appear on her record if she is categorically not proven un-guilty at a court? We are in this country on a work visa and I fear a blot on the record might have undesirable implications when it is time to renew the visa or re-enter the country.