Is $200 An Appropriate Penalty For Stealing A $.79 Donut?

A Wyoming college student probably never thought he’d be making headlines around the country when he got caught eating a donut he hadn’t paid for.

According to reports, the 19-year-old was charged with misdemeanor shoplifting after employees at a store say they spotted him leaving the premises without anteing up the $.79 for the donut.

Rather than go to trial over this crime of the century, the teen made a deal with the city attorney to pay a $200 fine, $10 in court costs and the original $.79 he should have paid in the first place.

“I’ve deferred the prosecution and at the end of six months the charge will be dismissed fully if he has not been in any more trouble related to larceny or theft,” the prosecutor tells a reporter for the Northwest Trail.

The paper reports that when the student, who was with other patrons who paid for their purchases at the register, was snagged with the purloined pastry, which he said he simply forgot to pay for, he attempted to make good by paying for it.

But the store’s owner maintained that, “Policy is policy… Paid for is OK; not paid for is shoplifting.”

Other area residents think the punishment may have been too harsh. “I think it’s ridiculous that the store and police are pursuing this,” one student tells the Trail. “He was willing to pay it back at the store and it was an innocent mistake blown out of proportion.”

Since everyone loves to play judge Judy and executioner, here’s a poll where you can decide the young thief’s fate:

Doughnut case glazed over before trial [Northwest Trail via]


Edit Your Comment

  1. AldisCabango says:

    Donuts are a gateway theft.

  2. Dr. Ned - This underwear is Sofa King Comfortable! says:


    • cabalist says:

      He could go to court and fight the charge. If he is found guilty what is the sentence? THAT is what we should be looking at–whether or not the sentence IF HE IS FOUND GUILTY is more or less than $200.

      The $200 is a DEAL that he did not have to agree to, but he chose to anyway. That ~$200 cleans his record, pays for the legal process, etc.

      As far as the “he offered to pay (once he got caught)”, well, that is kind of like the “my house is on fire but I decided not to pay for fire service this year–can i pay now that my house is on fire?” I do not think that it is reasonable that the store has to ‘catch’ every ‘customer’ before they pay. That isn’t really how it works.

      If I stole something I would pay $200 to make it go away…

  3. shepd says:

    He admitted he was guilty of shoplifting. End of story–once you admit guilt in face to a judge and get the expected sentence for the crime don’t whine about it afterwards. $200 is an appropriate fine for shoplifting a $0.79 item. I expect he won’t shoplift again. Or, he’ll assert his right to a fair trial. Either way, good thing for society.

    • Thyme for an edit button says:

      Yes, I agree. The penalty here is reasonable and should hopefully deter him from doing this again.

      • Tyanna says:

        Properly deter him from what exactly? He didn’t do it maliciously. He and the group he was with paid for other things. He forgot about the donut.

        I could see this being something you’d call the cops over if hid the fact that he ate the donut, or hid the donut on his person to try and sneak off the premises and got cough. Then, there was intent to steal and I 100% agree he should have been punished.

        Honest mistakes shouldn’t result in such a waste of time, money, and resources.

        • torgeaux says:

          No, he SAYS he didn’t do it maliciously. I guess the fact that his friends didn’t “forget” probably could serve as a reminder, “Hey, I have to pay, too!” In his case, I don’t believe his story. In any event, the story implies he ate the donut before getting to the checkout, so he’d already stolen it by that time.

        • jebarringer says:

          “Honest mistakes” are still mistakes, and like it or not you’re still responsible for them.

        • milkcake says:

          Okay.. when I drink and drive, that’s an honest mistake… NO IT’S NOT. Honest mistake is more like when you try to pay for almost everything and left an item in the cart by accident. That’s an honest mistake.

        • shepd says:

          It will deter him from not paying attention, if that’s how this happened. He will pay more attention while shopping and won’t accidentally shoplift again.

          It’s the same idea of getting a fine for speeding, except shoplifting is actually wrong.

        • RvLeshrac says:

          When I worked at a grocer, we once had someone who purchased a carton of cigarettes and stole a $1 lighter. The fine for misdemeanor shoplifting here is $600.

          Paying for other things doesn’t mean you didn’t intend to steal the thing you stole.

    • DariusC says:

      Wrong. Not fair, nor just. If I had seen him stealing a donut and he didn’t pay up, he would be banned from the store. To get the police involved was assinine. He ended up costing the government far more than he lost on that donut. Not to mention the kid having to pay as much as he did. This kind of thing would never happen in the 50s, the kid would get smacked upside the head and told not to come back unless he pays for it. Today, the cops are called. Waste of time, money and tax dollars.

      • Doubting thomas says:

        It is completely just, and completely fair. We have a set of laws we live under. he vilated those laws and he got a reasonable fine for it.
        as far as this line…”This kind of thing would never happen in the 50s, the kid would get smacked upside the head and told not to come back unless he pays for it”
        you forgot to add, unless he was dark skinned, in which case he would have gotten 5-10 years and a beating by the cops.
        That is unfair and unjust.

        • mehitabel says:

          >We have a set of laws we live under.

          Yes: $200 for stealing a donut; $0 for stealing millions in fraudulent mortgages and raided pension funds.

          Great set of laws you got there.

          And, before some troll brings it up, of course the larger crimes don’t justify the smaller one. But a sense of proportion and wisdom would be nice.

      • zerogspacecow says:

        What do the ’50s have to do with it? Just because it wouldn’t have happened in the ’50s means it’s bad?

        You also wouldn’t have been able to post that comment in the ’50s…

        • DGC says:

          Why do we assume that this wouldn’t happen or would have been handled differently in the 50s? I’m sure it did happen and was handled the same way. I guess the nice thing about the past is that we can remember it exactly the way we want. I was only alive for 5 months during the 50, so my memory of it is very hazy. But considering that every generation seems to lament the actions of “kids now days” I assume it did.

      • Cat says:

        Who is this “kid” you speak of? He’s 19. And where do you draw the magic line in the sand? is it 79 cents? A buck seventy nine? 79 dollars? and what IS a fair fine? I would call $2000 excessive, but not $200.

        If your parents didn’t teach you that stealing was wrong by your 18th birthday, you need to be taught a lesson. Time for junior to grow up.

        If he’s a good “boy”, for 6 months, he’ll even have the incident whiped from his record. Sounds appropriate to me.

        • sagodjur says:

          “he said he simply forgot to pay for, he attempted to make good by paying for it. “

          I could understand a harsh fine if he was unrepentant and clearly intended to steal the donut. If witnesses could testify that he said, “hey guys, watch me steal a donut!” then I could accept treating him like a criminal.

          He violated the law but not the spirit of the law. Throwing the book at the kid (yes, “kid.” people don’t really become adults until they’re around 30 in this country and some never grow up) doesn’t make sense here. This is Kafkaesque at its finest.

          • jebarringer says:

            If you insist he’s still a “kid”, then why was he unsupervised in the store? This isn’t “Kafkaesque”, this is making people realize that you’re not “special snowflakes” that can do whatever you want.

          • torgeaux says:

            I love how everyone assumes that his after the fact excuse is true. And, what is your opinion of him, and his punishment if he was lying, and only said that to avoid punishment?

            • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

              I find that interesting too. I’ve never forgotten to pay for something. Ever.

            • loggg says:

              Come on! We’re talking about 79 cents. There are people crazy enough to throw away everyone’s assumption that they are honest in exchange for a measly 79 cents– I know of a white collar employee who regularly stole change from the coffee collection at work. They finally set up a bit of surveillance and caught him red handed. And forcefully retired him after catching him. Yep, he lost his job over some spare change. Quite inexplicable, considering he was well paid. Most of us would not do this, even those of us who would commit a big theft if we were certain we could get away with it.

              Does the kid have a history of petty theft? The article doesn’t say. If he has no history, I have no trouble believing it was an honest mistake. $200 for a first time offense that might have just been an innocent mistake is excessive, and strikes me as the authorities engaging in a bit of theft themselves. Rather like the typical parking meter scam so many cities can’t resist running. Some example they’re setting!

              • Round-Eye §ñ‰∫∫„ÅØ„Ç≥„É≥„Çπ„Éû„É™„ÉÉ„Çπ„Éà„ÅåÂ•Ω„Åç„Åß„Åô„ÄÇ says:

                Right. It’s 79¬¢. And, I would be money he was thinking, “It’s only 79¬¢! Who gives a shit.” Stealing is stealing. If it was a legitimate accident, we’ll never know. But you, loggg, can’t arbitrarily draw a line at what is okay to steal and what isn’t. Neither can I. You can’t sort of steal…you either do or you don’t.

              • u1itn0w2day says:

                Petty theft is a misdemeanor citation or ticket in most locales. Shoftlift a package of socks in a store or bag of chips from a supermarket and see what happens. This guy/kid is considered a legal adult. He should be treated like an adult petty thief

          • shepd says:

            Alright, mathematically, someone without morals would steal every single time as long as the chances of being caught were below 100% (even 99% would qualify as making stealing a “deal”) and the results were having to pay for the item and say you didn’t really mean it.

            And if he actually honstly believed it was a mistake, he would please nolo contendere, which is permitted in Wyoming. He would still be found guilty and punished, BUT he wouldn’t have committed the upfront lie of saying he was guilty of theft (which would require intent) which comes with a true guilty plea. If he didn’t know he could do that, then the education system has failed, as I suspect it has.

          • Jawaka says:

            Of course he just forgot to pay for it. It was a completely innocent mistake.

            There really aren’t all that many people who admit it (“yeah, you got me”) when you catch them stealing things.

          • witeowl says:

            When I was caught shoplifting as a kid, the first words out of my mouth were, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to.” What kind of BS was that? Of course I meant to. And I was only sorry because I was caught. It’s not like I stumbled and accidentally shoplifted.

            If I were a bit older and “wiser” when caught, I might have, instead, said that I intended to pay but forgot. And then offer to pay.

            • Twonkey says:

              It’s a .79 cent donut. Chances are great that he just forgot to pay for it. And given that he offered to make right as soon as the mistake was brought to his attention, this never should have escalated to the point that it did.

              • Bunnies Attack! says:

                What? People only shoplift expensive stuff? No, chances are he thought he could get away with it and that nothing would happen because it was only a 79 cent donut. Surprise!

                Also, he’s with a group of people, everyone is lining up to pay, but he somehow forgets to? How does that work?

                • sagodjur says:

                  “Chances are…”

                  Have any proof to back up your claims about what the chances are other than your cynicism?

                  I could see a perfectly reasonable scenario in which you’re with a bunch of a friends, socializing and hanging out, and you’re not paying attention to what’s going on and you accidentally walk off with something.

                  Just because you don’t think he’s honest from the scant details the story provides doesn’t mean that it’s not possible that he did actually forget. In which case, you’re judging harshly without evidence based on assumptions. Guilty until proven innocent and all that.

      • milkcake says:

        For an HONEST mistake, yes it’s steep, but mistake carries the price. Anyway, that’s what he claims but if he stole it on purpose, $200 is appropriate or even too low of a fine. I mean if they let me just take my “mistake” back and let me pay up for the item and just leave the premises, I will steal EVERY time (well I won’t. I would feel guilty for that), but a lot of people will.

      • shepd says:

        Smacking the kid upside the head is assault, and that will get the cops called. And if the kid didn’t do it, I’d feel another part of me dying.

        Here’s the deal: If you don’t want to pay for the justice system, then just don’t. You also shouldn’t get the benefits of it either. In other words, no cops, and no prisons. Just anarchy.

        Yes, anarchy won’t erupt over one donut. But anarchy wouldn’t erupt over Charles Manson being released from prison, either. You either have have a justice system that tries to apply justice fairly at all times, or, in my opinion, you just don’t bother at all.

    • Thassodar says:

      Whatever you’re smoking, I want some of it.

    • Jawaka says:

      I agree. Don’t blame the judge here, blame your own dumb ass for attempting to steal a donut.

    • u1itn0w2day says:

      I agree with the fine. Shoplifting under 150$ or so is a 150$ ticket/citation. It’s theft of food. The only hope this kid has is that was everyone else who got caughbt shoplifting under 10$ lets say got similar penalties. If they didn’t he could claim unequal enforcement of the law or penalties.

  4. dush says:

    Store owner who wouldn’t just take payment when the customer realized his mistake should pay all the City Attorney and court costs.

    • Doubting thomas says:

      so it is the victim’s fault?

      He should just roll over and give out free donuts to everyone then?

    • zerogspacecow says:

      Then anybody who gets caught shoplifting can just say “whoops, I just forgot to pay! Here is the original amount!”

      • JennQPublic says:

        Exactly! I don’t understand why Consumerists (usually such a skeptical lot) are so willing to believe this teenager “forgot” to pay for something he ate. I have opened something in a store and consumed it a couple of times (generally a beverage when I was in dire need), but was VERY careful to pay for it. I believe all reasonable people would be.

        Kid got caught STEALING and paid a price. I don’t think I’ll be decrying our justice system over this.

        • gpatrick says:

          I shopped as a regular customer at the store-they know me real well. One time, I forgot the milk in the cart. As soon as I got outside to the car, I went back inside & payed for it. Should I get punished by forgetting to pay for something Left in the cart by mistake? I am an older adult. No one came after me either.

          • JennQPublic says:

            I’m willing to bet if you had stopped to drink the milk in the store, you would have been extra-careful to pay for it. Just dropping groceries in the cart is common-place, eating something that DOES NOT BELONG TO YOU is unusual and should trigger a conscious “I’d better pay for this!” response.

            If it doesn’t, I dare say a $200 fine will teach you to show more consideration for property that is not yours.

            • gpatrick says:

              first, I am careful I have been shopping there for many years. Just because I forgot to something out in the cart & put it on a checkout stand, doesn’t make me a criminal. There was no intent to steal. I just overlooked it. I really don’t know how I overlooked it.

              • JennQPublic says:

                And the store used its discretion in dealing with you. As this store did with this kid.

                Maybe there’s a reason this owner didn’t buy this kid’s story of ‘forgetting’. Just because you forgot to pay for your milk once doesn’t mean that every shoplifter’s excuse of ‘forgetting’ is true.

          • dush says:

            Apparently from the other commenters you left the store with unpaid-for merchandise. You clearly STOLE even though you went back and paid for it. So regardless of your intentions or any mitigating circumstances you should get prosecuted and fined. Have a nice day.

          • zerogspacecow says:

            You voluntarily went back in to pay for it, which is not at all the same thing as being caught BEFORE you showed any intention of paying for it.

            If you had been caught walking out with it, then I’d say that you would be “shoplifting”. But even in that case, your situation would be a little bit better since you had other groceries, and just the one item was missed.

            This guy was caught with just the one item, and when he was caught he was leaving, not going back in to pay for it.

      • dush says:

        If shoplifters openly flaunted what they were supposedly trying to steal as they walked out of the store I might see your point.

    • u1itn0w2day says:

      It’s the victim’s discretion to prosecute in many areas unless a cop sees the offense. The law is there for a reason so victims don’t make their own justice.

    • Mr. Pottersquash says:

      perhaps store owner doesnt believe this was just “a mistake”

  5. Bluth_Cornballer says:

    A good lawyer probably could have found a hole in the prosecution’s case.

  6. vliam says:

    Other area residents think the punishment may have been too harsh. “I think it’s ridiculous that the store and police are pursuing this,” one student tells the Trail.

    If enough people in the area feel the same way and choose to shop elsewhere, this problem will take care of itself.

  7. Coffee says:

    Looks like he got put on diversion, a one-time deal that the court gives you to drop the charges if you don’t fuck up again. I used mine on a mushrooms charge…this guy totally wasted his, imo.

  8. Don't Bother says:

    This reminds me of the first time I did jury duty. The case? A man was caught outside of a grocery store with some shoplifted goods. He had a stolen tube of, wait for it, yeast infection cream. Something that probably cost twenty bucks. And I had to waste my whole day listening to something so ridiculous as a man stealing vaginal cream.

    Yes, I’m happy we have a court system and he had a fair trial. But seriously? He was taken to court over this? I wanted to just pay for the box myself and have my eight hours back.

    • ajaxd says:

      He was probably offered a plea deal and he didn’t like it so the case went to trial. In this posting the deal was to pay $200 fine but if the person refused to take it then it would have gone to trial to (over a .79c donut).

      • Don't Bother says:

        I was thinking that it also wasn’t his first offense. But you know what they say about assuming…

    • Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

      A coworker of mine tried to shoplift a 20 pound bag of dogfood for his pitbull puppies. Wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. I asked him why, since he just got paid and he replied that he blew his entire check on weed.

  9. RickinStHelen says:

    A classic shoplifter line is, “I forgot, let me pay you now.” That’s why policy is policy.

    • Doubting thomas says:


    • longfeltwant says:

      It’s baffling that people don’t understand this. “Oh, but the kid simply forgot!” Really? Come on, now, let’s be grown-ups and stop believing fairy tales, okay?

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDave‚Ñ¢ says:

      Please see the classic video I shot, where a guy was trying to walk past the register with a TV in a shopping cart when he was nabbed. He utters the line “but I can pay for it” about 15 seconds in:

    • JGKojak says:

      Those who think this is reasonable forget that all of this ties up our courts and takes valuable time away from prosecuting real criminals.

      He offered to pay for it. He was probably embarrassed. End of story.

      The fault is really w/the prosecuter/D.A. who should have had a staffer call the store and say “really?”

  10. smbizowner says:

    When wall street bankers get slapped with nothing for stealing billions….. Oh wait they got Paid for stealing billions.

    and when white collar criminals get a couple years at the country club jail for embezzling millions. [ just Google Michael Vorce – rhymes with farce….]

    peons should get drawn, quartered and put in the stocks at the public square where we can throw rotten vegetables at them………..

    • Doubting thomas says:

      there it is. I was waiting for the 2 wrongs make a right argument

      • George4478 says:

        The old ‘Person A didn’t get punished to my satisfaction for one type of crime, why should Person B get punished at all for a different type of crime?’ logic.

        Makes no sense but it appears in every crime/punishment story here.

        • DFManno says:

          Yeah, because the ideal that the justice system should be equitable is just so quaint and unnecessary.

    • NeverLetMeDown says:

      Here’s the difference. You may not like Wall Street compensation policies, and you may think that certain transactions SHOULD be crimes, but they’re not. You can’t be prosecuted for doing something that SHOULD be illegal (in some people’s opinions) but isn’t.

      • mehitabel says:

        this. 2 wrongs don’t make a right, but anyone who thinks the financial sector has been making money legally or morally hasn’t been paying attention. A lot of them built their fortunes on insider trading, fraudulent mortgages, and other illegal actions. As far as the legally made fortunes, many of those have been made unethically, through lies and misrepresentations (e.g., Goldman Sachs touting assets that their internal documents showed they knew were worthless – which may in fact have been illegal, I don’t know). And that doesn’t count the many ways the financial sector and their cronies have gamed the system.

        but hey it’s all works out – a kid gets rooked for swiping a donut. Law and order and moral values prevail in America!

  11. _Rand_ says:

    If they can charge you with $150,000 for downloading a $1 song that can be replicated a unlimited number of times, then $200 for a $.79 doughnut that can’t is a steal.

  12. Velifer says:

    As soon as he was faced with some jackass who’s going to put policy before common sense, then the cops and courts who almost invariably put law in before common sense, and he didn’t get tight-lipped and lawyer up…

    …he gets his just desserts.

    • ajaxd says:

      Common sense works both ways. At some point the logic at “should I pay 79 cents or risk being caught” malfunctioned.

  13. VicMatson says:

    Did he get out of the door, and if yes, why didn’t the store employees just say “You forgot to pay”. That would remind me of when the police waited for me to commit more crime on my way home from work at 16 years old.

    Boycott the dam store!

  14. Cat says:

    Police get very angry when you take their donuts.

    “String ’em up. It’ll teach ’em a lesson!”

  15. Velifer says:

    Send him to prison!
    He can see what being cream filled is like!

  16. El_Fez says:

    Boy, that’s a hard decision. Clearly 200 bones for a doughnut is WAY out of line, but a crime is a crime. I learned even as a small kid: dont steal things. So my law and order side is conflicted with my “Be a f@&^ing human” side.

    • Doubting thomas says:

      His crime is cause time and money to be spent by the city, the cop, and the store owner. $200.00 seems just.

  17. Cat says:

    “I’ve deferred the prosecution and at the end of six months the charge will be dismissed fully if he has not been in any more trouble related to larceny or theft,” said the prosecutor, “We just want the money.”

    • axhandler1 says:

      Lol, if only he had actually said that. That would’ve been amazing. I’m sure he was thinking it though.

  18. shadow67 says:

    I think the punishment is correct. If not, then what is there to prevent people from walking out with goods? When caught they can say they forgot and agree to pay for it. If not asked for, they got things for free…

    • vliam says:

      I lean more toward the “12 hours of picking up trash on the side of the highway over a weekend”-school of thought.

  19. longfeltwant says:

    I don’t think it’s out of proportion to the crime. The penalty is a day’s wages, maybe two days’ wages if you have a low-paying job. You got nipped shoplifting; I think you should consider yourself lucky to get off paying only a day’s wages in fines.

    “Oh, I forgot” can’t possibly be used as an excuse for shoplifting, or it would be an excuse in every case. Offering to pay for what you stole is obviously insufficient — what, if you successfully steal it then you get it for free, and if you get caught then you only have to pay for the thing? Come on, that doesn’t make sense.

    Pay the fine. Feel lucky. Next time pay for the donut.

    • Auron says:

      At the Federal minimum wage, that $200 is 27.59 hours of work. So unless you are working 14 hours a day, that $200 translates closer to 4 days worth of work at 8 hrs/day then 2. *YMMV since some states have a higher min wage.

      • longfeltwant says:

        That’s interesting, but irrelevant. Most people don’t make the minimum wage. If you want to make your point, you should make it with the AVERAGE wage, which is

        $41,000/year, or $166 per day. So, $200 is approximately a day’s wages, as I said.

        Four days’ wages? Okay, if you insist, you can read my comments as “four days’ wages” and all the points still stand.

        • who? says:

          So, I take it you missed the part where the donut thief was a 19 year old student, right?

          4 days of labor is totally out of proportion with a $.79 theft.

          • torgeaux says:

            Why? The point of punishment (or a point) is to reinforce correct behavior and disincentivize bad behavior. The closer the punishment is to the cost of the item, the more the equation weighs towards, “take the risk, steal it.” At 4 days wages, the cost/benefit analysis is easy. If it was one hour, or even a 10 to 1 ratio, then if you’re not going to get caught but one time in 100, then it’s worth it to try. Now? At more than 200 to 1, that analysis is very, very easy.

            • iindsay says:

              Why don’t we make the analysis even easier and just execute shoplifters? For punishment to be effective, it needs to be in proportion to the crime. Otherwise, why not steal some higher priced items?

          • RedOryx says:

            So punishment fines should be based on a sliding scale?

        • DJSeanMac says:

          The more accurate measure is the MEDIAN wage. 26,363.55/250 working days = 105.45. So we’re really talking about two days of work at the median rate. Please don’t use “average” anything. It’s genuinely worthless when our income distribution is so ridiculously skewed.

  20. BlkSwanPres says:

    How could he forget to pay while he was standing with people that were paying?

  21. badgertale says:

    At $200 bucks, one is going to think twice before stealing ANYTHING again.

  22. Warren - aka The Piddler on the Roof says:

    Dear Homer,

    I owe you one donut.


  23. Hi_Hello says:

    charge will be dismissed fully

    I think it’s fair. if has a record, he’s screwed.

  24. speaky2k says:

    I had to vote for “It’s a bit high, but maybe it will deter future pilferers.” But the poll forgot that it will deter future pilferers since now the store will have a greatly reduced client base since people will be afraid to shop there in case they ever forget to pay for something.
    Now in my opinion it never should have involved the cops or attorneys. Someone should have asked the guy, “aren’t you forgetting something?” at which time he probably would have realized that he did forget to pay for the donut he was eating. Sure, stores need a policy, but it is up to humans to decide if the policy applies.

    • longfeltwant says:

      I don’t think most people worry about forgetting to pay for things.

      • veritybrown says:

        Usually at least once every few months I forget to take something out of my cart and put it on the conveyor belt. Usually it’s something small that ended up at the back of the cart where I couldn’t see it easily. Once I had to answer a call from my husband, set my purse down on top of a small item I had already placed in the top section of the cart, and didn’t discover it until I picked up my purse after paying for my groceries. On every single one of these occasions, I have promptly returned to the store, got back in the checkout line, and paid for the accidentally pilfered goods. If someone went all “policy” at me and accused me of shoplifting in these cases, I’d be pretty upset, since it would hardly make sense that I was *intentionally* stealing a small, inexpensive item when I’d just willingly paid for a cart full of groceries.

        A far more HUMAN reaction in the case of the donut would have been for the cashier or manager to say, “Are you planning to pay for that?” and then (when he agreed, totally embarrassed in front of his friends) allow him to do so. Only an answer of “I paid for it already” would merit a shoplifting charge, IMO. But that reaction would require the exercise of humanity (and intelligence) on the part of the store manager, rather than machine-like policy.

        • satoru says:

          Not relevant in this situation. He ATE THE DOUGHNUT. He did not forget it in a bag or any other such nonsense. He ate it and then decided paying for it was for chumps.

        • shepd says:

          I’ve had that happen, once. I also returned and paid for it. The store was rather surprised, but didn’t have a problem with it.

          If they’d had a freakout, fine. I’d simply ask them to choose to either call the cops, or let me go. If they called the cops, I’d let a jury of my peers decide if I were being honest regarding my intent. If I lost, I’d pay the fine and/or do the time.

          While I might be upset at the moment, it’d sink in that I put myself in that situation. Of course, being as I don’t want to be there, I now double check my cart each and every time I go to pay.

          And before you say that having a trial over it is silly/wrong, you should spend some time in court. I’ve been there (on the good side!) and trust me, there’s enough scumbags wasting everyone’s life (generally pleading “Oh, it was a mistake” to stealing toothpaste while the judge is begging the prosecution to NOT make him read the 3 pages listing *79* prior jail-time resulting convictions he has) and money (same guy got 6 months in jail for the toothpaste, based in this being offense 80) that the court would welcome someone who hasn’t gone to jail sitting in the defendant’s seat for once.

          As for the jury, I’m of the sound opinion that you should be given an option when requested for jury duty: You may choose not to be a juror, EVER, by opting out of your right to a trial by jury for life (Hey, you still get a trial by judge, so totally fair), or you choose to participate in the legal system and suck up a few hours of boredom to insure your future protection. Up to you.

          • DJSeanMac says:

            If you’re innocent (or, as in this case, it’s an honest mistake) and your lawyer advises you the judge is fair, I advise declining a jury trial. Jury members are emotional; judges have seen it all before and much much worse.

            • shepd says:

              I will take your advice, if I ever have to. :-D Hopefully that doesn’t come to be. /me puts the donut down and backs away, slowly.

  25. torgeaux says:

    Yes. Every shoplifter says, “Oh, it was a mistake, i meant to pay!”

    He ate the donut. Before he paid for it. A deferred prosecution and fine are the norm.

    • stoppie says:

      Really? Every shoplifter claims they forgot to pay? I’ve seen youtube videos where shoplifters are tearing the item away from a security guard’s hands and verbally and physically abusing the guard in the process.

      If the perp does that, or tries to flee, or the item is stuffed down his pants, then throw the book at ’em. If it’s clear that they didn’t attempt to conceal anything, then give ’em a pass, once.

      • torgeaux says:

        Sorry, I’m more familiar with shoplifting than through youtube videos. Criminal defense and prosecution work.

        yeah, you have the “Animal House” example, but that’s the minority. Usually, you have someone trying to sneak out and when caught, proclaim that it was all a mistake. Under your proposal, one could shoplift with impunity, just do it casually, and if caught, claim a mistake and all is forgiven.

  26. Weapon X says:

    How many $.79 donuts did this kid steal before he got caught? How many other $.79 donuts were stolen by other thieves before this guy got caught? I’d rather any and all thieves caught pay the cost of theft incurred by a small bakery instead of passing those costs on to the law abiding consumers. Do you have any idea how razor thin the profit margins are at a bakery excluding the costs incurred due to theft?

  27. PhillipSC says:

    They should be thankful they aren’t using MPAA math… then it would be $100,000 per sprinkle!

  28. CubeRat says:

    Well, not only did this kid learn not to ‘forget’ to pay for stuff, I bet a whole lot of other people learned not to %^$& with this store owner.

    College is full of expensive lessons. This one came quickly.

    The store owner asserted his rights, and has gotten a lot of publicity. Win-win for him.

  29. j2.718ff says:

    It sounds like the store is on firm legal ground to act as it did.

    However, there is no legal obligation for the store to act as it did. The decent thing to do would be to scold the kid (indicate that they can legally file charges against him), but let him off with a warning plus $0.79

  30. Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

    How many here think it costs less than $200 to go through the motions of processing this guy?

    If it was an honest mistake, I feel bad for him, but I doubt it was. In fact, it looks like he’s studying to be a cop so he should keep paying for his donuts until he gets his badge.

  31. Jules Noctambule says:

    ‘Judge Judy and executioner’

    If this is intended to reference Hot Fuzz, you’ve just made my day.

  32. Fishnoise says:

    Went into a store with other people who paid while he didn’t, and he walked out with the donut? What, was he distracted from paying by the sight of his friends paying?

    Sorry, this guy is nothing but a lousy thief and an unconvincing liar and I hope my daughter learns to avoid a—holes like this when she goes to college.

    He’s fortunate to get a $210.79 six-month deferred prosecution deal. It’s been my experience that a stern talking-to isn’t all that effective for young scoundrels over the age of, say, twelve.

  33. 2 Replies says:

    It’s a FREAKIN 80-cent doughnut.
    Walmart regularly overcharges more on posted sale items.
    Charge him the 80 cents, and be done with it.
    A DOUGHNUT is NOT enough reason for a court case.

    • Extended-Warranty says:

      Yes it is. Stealing is stealing. Criminal intent should not be compared to money.

    • u1itn0w2day says:

      It’s not worth a criminal trial unless the defedant wants to contest the citation or ticket they should get for shop lifting under 150$ which seems to be the number in most states that seperates misdemeanor theft from felony theft.

  34. Stitchopoulis says:

    The store owner is within his rights to insist that “Policy is policy… Paid for is OK; not paid for is shoplifting.” And there is no such thing as an honest mistake, even if the student immediately attempted to rectify it.

    And to ensure that any honest mistakes he makes are prosecuted to the full extent of the law, he should have a full audit on his personal and business taxes every year in perpetuity. Wouldn’t want him to get away with committing criminal tax evasion by accident.

  35. Belloc says:

    I’d have just walked out of the store after the manager said “policy is policy”… assuming that was before the police showed up. After all, we know that they can’t chase you or detain you.

  36. alpha says:

    Off with his hand! (is that the left or the right?). see all is simple if sharia law is here /S
    Seriously, the fine is out of proportion to the crime BUT I’m quite sure it will be a lesson that Mr. 19 yrs. old will never forget again.

  37. Extended-Warranty says:

    I agree with the punishment 100%. Just because “it isn’t a lot” doesn’t make it any less of a crime. I bet he certainly learned his lesson, and it taught someone else not to do it.

  38. wheeitsme says:

    So I read the article.

    He went into a grocery store with a group of friends, ate a donut while in the store with his friends. Waits for his friends to go through the register and pay for their items. Leaves with his friends. And then gets caught. And his excuse was “I forgot”.

    I think he got a pretty inexpensive lesson in morals and values.

  39. MyTQuinn says:

    If they had just let him pay for the donut at the time of the incident, that would have been fine (no pun intended). But now that it’s a public spectacle, there must be some sort of punishment, else they will be publicly condoning theft.

  40. The Bunk says:

    Forgetting to pay for something is no joke. Look how that worked out for Ralph Macchio in “My Cousin Vinny.”

  41. Zydia says:

    This might not be the case, but it looks like the store snapped and threw the book at this guy. 79 cents can add up if enough people keep nabbing them thinking it’s nothing.

  42. superml says:

    If the employees spotted him leaving, why didn’t they say something then and avoid this whole thing

  43. Sure I could agree with you, but then we'd BOTH be wrong. says:

    It could have been worse…. He could have been tried for murder…

    “I shot the clerk? I shot the clerk??????”

  44. mk says:

    all you people saying this is a fair punishment, and that shoplifters will just use the “i forgot to pay” excuse to get away with it know that most retail store loss is perpetrated by the employees right?

    • torgeaux says:

      Yes. Those people should be prosecuted. What’s your point? That someone somewhere gets away with it, so he should, too?

  45. greyfade says:

    Missing option:

    “Y’all are craaaaazy m***********s!”

  46. Geekybiker says:

    1) He’s not a kid. He’s 19 and needs to behave like an adult
    2) Everyone says “Oh I forgot to pay!” when caught.

    If it really was a mistake I guess he’ll pay more attention now. Consider it a cheap lesson. It could have been much worse.

  47. JedediahJ says:

    People take from our store’s bakery all the time. Leaving empty containers hidden away on shelves throughout the store. I even recall seeing one man eat a donut right out of the glass display and walk away. Should the store take these people to court for these things? Many here would say no. Cause the stolen value equals out less then $3 per each individual theft. What do we do though when we lose hundreds of dollars per month from so many people doing it?

    • u1itn0w2day says:

      I recently had a situation in an Aldi walking past an individual who opened a box of tissues and used several near the checkout line. I was stunned. I glanced back, I did not see the tissues in her hand. I didn’t want to stare at her to findout if she had them or not. I regret not trying to inform store personel but since the lines were long & the store short handed(cashiers only employees in sight) I did nothing which bothers me to this day. I was debating the whole time in line should I try to say something but I would’ve delayed my checkout and the half dozen plus behind me and risked accussing someone I still wasn’t 100% sure that they did it.

      Point is why should I stand in line to pay for my unused stuff and someone who uses it in the store doesn’t pay. How is that fair.

      • Errr... says:

        My husband and I were grocery shopping a couple of weeks ago. There was a woman in the U Scan next to us who had a Wii game and sonic toothbrush in the bottom of her kid’s stroller with coats thrown over the items. My husband alerted the cashier who was right next to him. Sure enough, the lady hit the finish button without ringing up the items in the stroller. The cashier asked her if she got everything in her cart rung up and the lady said yes. Then the cashier went over and pulled the stuff out from under the stroller and the lady was like “oh… yea…I forgot about that stuff.” How do you forget to ring up over $150 worth of stuff when the total for your other items is less than $20? People amaze me.

  48. dolemite says:

    I’ll always be against these people walking around the store eating food and drinking. Until you pay for it, it isn’t yours. Although some people will pay, a lot of them simply hide the evidence.

  49. pot_roast says:

    $200 fine for taking an actual physical product, consuming it, and not paying for it…. and the whole incident goes away forever in 6 months, vs $250,000 per downloaded mp3.

    Yeah, our justice system is messed up sometimes. In this case, the kid is getting a fair deal. Lucky it’s only $200 these days.

  50. failurate says:

    Give Donut – Receive Cash Later seems to be an odd way to do business for a bakery/donut shop.
    Don’t most of them work on the Receive Cash – Give Donut business model?

    And, $200 seems fair for petty theft.

  51. Cerne says:

    The thief got no jail time, no criminal record and a very small fine. Seems fair to me.

  52. serke says:

    Instead of getting the cops, etc. involved and wasting the time of the judicial system, I’m sure this could have been handled differently.

    A store policy where, if caught shoplifting, you will be charged 3x the amount and if the items total over a certain amount ($10, $20?), the police will become involved, seems fair to me. Managerial discretion would be used of course.

    If it seems obvious there was intent to steal (as a lot of folks are assuming in this case…), paying $2.37 for a doughnut seems about right to me. You wasted your time and the stores, and paid way more than you would have if you’d just paid for it in the first place. Lesson learned?

    • Nyall says:

      I’d say it would depend on what percentage of shoplifters get caught. If you catch 1 of every 5, then they should pay 5x plus a penalty. Otherwise paying 3x when you have a 1 in 5 chance of being caught will work out in you favor over the long haul.

  53. Villnius says:

    The fine has to be just high enough to discourage people from doing this sort of thing, not just the monetary value of the item. Otherwise, the only downside to stealing from stores is the five seconds of embarrassment people normally get from setting off the store buzzers — which isn’t much.

    The fine isn’t even that much, considering that some cities fine that much for just parking too long. I say make him walk in public in a donut suit with a placard telling people he got caught stealing a donut. Even one hour a day for a week would make someone think twice about stealing ever again.

  54. Fantoche_de_Chaussette says:

    This is America. The country where one out of 50 men is behind bars on any given day. The country with seven times more prisoners per capita than Canada and Western Europe. The country with the largest prison population in the world, both on an absolute and per capita basis; more prisoners than Russia, more prisoners than China. America has 2,500,000 prisoners today; not on parole, not on probation, but behind bars, right this minute.

    In this country, we have given out a 15-year prison sentence for simple theft of a pizza.

    That Consumerist would ask “is a small fine too harsh” shows how COMPLETELY disconnected the web-browsing class is from the reality of the how “the system” treats America’s underclass.

    If this kid had been from the ‘hood rather than from Wyoming, he’d have been fed into the prison-industrial complex already. And there wouldn’t be a Consumerist story about it.

  55. donovanr says:

    I hope the mass of student’s new “policy is a policy” is to not go to this shop until the owner makes good to the student to the tune of $210.79.

    Let say 20 students don’t show up per day for an average of 2$ profit lost each then it only takes that small group 6 days to blow past the money owed. 40 students not ever coming back might be enough to tip the place into ruin.

  56. arb says:

    How many times has he walked away without getting caught? He stole the donut, got caught, tried to BS his way out of it – he can now pay the fine.

  57. waicool says:

    this kid will soon learn his lesson and apply for Obama Stamps where ALL food and drink is free with a swipe of his very own government food card. perfectly legal and a good way to get around those pesky business owners.

    • DFManno says:

      You mean “Bush Stamps,” since more people were added to the food-stamps rolls during the Shrub’s administration than during Obama’s.

  58. Errr... says:

    I don’t buy this guy’s excuse. Not only did he forget to pay for the donut, but his friends didn’t say anything to him either. That seems odd to me. If I saw my friend eat something in the store and not pay for it, I’d say something.
    I used to have pretty bad blood sugar issues when I was younger. I have had to eat stuff at the store before I got to the checkout or I would have fainted. I always would put the wrapper in the cart, or held it in my hand to make sure I didn’t forget to pay for it. And it was usually the first thing I would have the cashier ring up so I wouldn’t forget.
    I think the punishment was completely fair. He stole something that was relatively low in value and he got a fine that was relatively low as well. If he stays out of trouble, he gets his record wiped clean. As an adult he should know that there are consequences to his actions.

  59. O2C says:

    Here’s a comparison — right now in NYC, there’s a $100 fine for stealing $2.25. That risk of getting caught is so low that it’s cost effective to steal the $2.25 multiple times a day and only pay the fine when you get caught. So there’s a law going through the state senate trying to raise the fine to $500.

    A $200 fine doesn’t seem out of line to me.

  60. Eterion says:

    Might be something as small or miniscule as a donut now, but it could just be baby steps up to something larger or more expensive next time.

  61. beaverfan says:

    America: The place were a man steals billions and is given a 4 year jail sentence, while another man gets 15 years for stealing $100 and then giving it back.

  62. Southern says:

    Reminds me of one of my favorite Steve Martin skits:

    You.. can be a millionaire.. and never pay taxes! You say.. “Steve.. how can I be a millionaire.. and never pay taxes?” First.. get a million dollars.

    Now.. you say, “Steve.. what do I say to the tax man when he comes to my door and says, ‘You.. have never paid taxes’?” Two simple words. Two simple words in the English language: “I forgot!”

    How many times do we let ourselves get into terrible situations because we don’t say “I forgot”? Let’s say you’re on trial for armed robbery. You say to the judge, “I forgot armed robbery was illegal.” Let’s suppose he says back to you, “You have committed a foul crime. you have stolen hundreds and thousands of dollars from people at random, and you say, ‘I forgot’?” Two simple words: Excuuuuuse me!!”


    If he’s an honest citizen, then I bet he doesn’t “forget” to pay for his doughnut again.

    And $200 is a bargin. A speeding ticket costs more than that.

  63. TheRealMcCoy says:

    Hmm… policy is policy eh.

    I personally question the sanity of the individual(s) who feel that .79 cents is worth a $200 dollar fine. If the gentleman had not offered to pay THEN I could see that this fine would be in order, but shit a “honest” mistake is not worth $200 dollars. Really was not worth the hassle.

    Of course common sense seems to be missing from some business owners, managers, and law enforcement officials, in my opinion too.

  64. hansolo247 says:

    Now, if only the penalty for copying a MP3 file off the internet were this reasonable!

  65. thomwithanh says:

    $500-$1000 is usually the fine for fare evasion (on proof of payment systems such as MUNI in San Francisco), considering a doughnut is about half a subway fare, I think $200 is appropriate.

    Would I have prosecuted the guy? Probably not, unless he was a repeat offender, but it’s hard to pass judgement without knowing intent.

  66. Phildogger says:

    Totally unfair result, unless he was heard to be singing ” don’t know much about history, don’t know much biology…” under his breath. Bluto was a P-I-G, pig!

  67. jacobs cows says:

    Pay first,eat second.

  68. mister_deez says:

    Why are we calling him a “kid”? This guy is 19-years-old. You are setting very bad precedents if you let him off the hook. You would basically be saying to the general public “Try to steal from me, see if you can manage to not get caught, and if you lose you just pay the regular price of the food.

  69. andi_bird says:

    Stealing is stealing. If he’s stealing a donut, he’s probably stealing other things.

    I was in Home Depot & saw a jerk in line grab a $1 Snickers bar, eat it & pocket the wrapper. He probably does it everywhere he goes.

    If a company has a multitude of small items stolen, it certainly adds up to big bucks & we all pay for it.

  70. n0th1ng says:

    I’ve never forgot to pay for something and walked out of a store. Never.

  71. Carlee says:

    My guess is plenty of people who shoplift either say – I forgot to pay or I can pay. It doesn’t matter if you forgot or if you can. The fact is you didn’t, and that is a crime.

    If he wanted to plead innocence because he allegedly forgot, then he should have asked for a trial.

    By the way, he ate the donut while he was still in the store. Have we not established that you shouldn’t eat things inside stores if you haven’t paid for it yet? I’m just waiting for the claim that he had to eat the donut because of a medical condition (i.e., low blood sugar) or something. Or, you know, since he’s studying criminal justice – he was just testing the system…

  72. Rhazpun says:

    I used to work in retail and a common response from a shoplifter when being stopped was that he or she wants to now pay for the item after being stopped. Technically when shoplifting in Calif and you don’t have any money or not enough on your person you can be charged with burglary. You came into the store with intent. Fortunately for the student this didn’t apply in this case. The fine of $200 in combination with the conditions that the judge set is a fair judgement and hopefully the 19 year old when learn a lesson from this.

  73. Cream Of Meat says:

    I’ve made that mistake, and once I noticed, I wen’t right back in and paid for it. No one seemed to mind :/ Those jalapeno cheese rolls are so nom I just can’t wait!

    This was at the same store I was caught stealing before when I was a little kid and they said anything under $1 they just make you pay for or return. More than $1 they get the cops involved.

    I still eat things in a store and pay for them, but sometimes it slips my mind if its just a donut or something because all you have left is a tiny square of blue plastic, not like a whole soda bottle. I however don’t eat things that need to be weighed!

  74. khooray says:

    How many doughnuts do they throw away every day? But let’s prosecute for one EATEN.

  75. cf27 says:

    And…. This is why you don’t eat the food until after you pay for it. I know people sometimes walk around grocery stores eating/drinking something they just picked up off the shelves. But, when they do that, they run the risk that they won’t remember to pay for it and they will have shoplifted.

    Heck, eating food you don’t own is shoplifting all by itself — the store would have been right to call the cops on him even before he got to the checkout.

    It’s a grocery store, not a restaurant. Pay first, then eat.

  76. Rockfish says:

    In these times of murderers and rapists serving 5 years or less for THEIR heinous crimes, this $200 fine for $.79 donut is ridiculous.