Private Investigations and Personal Security/shoplifting


Dear Andrew,

I am an American citizen and I am residing in Munich-Germany where I cam 4 years ago to get married to a German woman.I have a resident visa valid till year.I do not have dual citizenship.I was allowed to stay here because I was married to a German citizen.Just 3 days ago we got divorced and I had my plans since the beginning of this year to come back to USA and never leave my country anymore.Not to Germany anyway.For this I already reserved a plane ticket for a flight to USA in 5 weeks from now.
Just a day before my divorce in court I made a stupid mistake of stealing few items from a store totalling the amount of 30 Euros(about $42).The Pl took me to the back office and I gave my name and address,I didn't have my passport with me but he didn't need it(I guess he checked me in the computer)and he called the police that came 10 minutes later.They also asked me for ID but didn't say they need any.They filed some papers and told me that I'll receive a letter in mail telling me a date in court and the time for this would be in bet.1 month and a half and 2 months.Then they let me go.I didn't sign anything and they didn't ask me to sign any papers.The items were kept by the store.The store didn't fine me just told me that I am not allowed to shop there anymore.

I didn't tell anybody that I'll be leaving Germany for good.
I plan to leave anyway before the court date comes.It is to early to know if and when I'll get my court date because only one week went by and no letter came yet.Usually how long does it take to receive such court summons,thinking that before this the police has to send their file to the court?Were they right about the timing they said?
My questions are:
-If I'll leave Germany will I be stopped at the customs?
-If by the time I'll be out of this country and I'll be in USA, lets say that the court hearing comes when I'll be in USA,what will they do about my case?Will they ask for extardition from US Govt.?
-They'll probably issue a bench warrant on my name but is this valid in the USA?Or only in Germany in a sense that if I'll ever set foot again in this country I'll be arrested?I don't have any plans to come to Germany again anymore in my life.

I have to tell you that I never ever had any kind of problems with the law and I have a clean slate in this matter.This would be my first and last offence in my life...and I am 49 years old...

Thank you so much for reading my letter and I also have to tell you that I am quite scared that something bad might happen to me...please help.


Dear Mike,

While I am not sure about how shoplifting is dealt with in Germany, I would reason to assume they would follow the same guidelines as most western nations.  

Simply put, in your situation, I would immediately notify the police department in the jurisdiction you were arrested and cited in and explain the situation to them.  I believe you may have a 50-50 chance of being stopped at customs if they do put a warrant in your name, and being an American citizen, it would indeed show up on your criminal history in the United States.  I don't think they'd extradite you back to Germany, but if you ever returned to visit, the warrant may show, and you get to explain it to the police at customs.

You should notify the police department that arrested you. Explain to them that you're moving back to the USA in 5 weeks and would be unavailable for a hearing. I would go back to the police department and waive my right to the hearing by pleading guilty to the offense and pay whatever fines they deem appropriate.  That way, you head back to the United States with a clean slate and a clean conscience.

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