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Are your criminal charges consistent with the alleged crime?

Life is full of frustrations, big and small. And even the most mild-mannered of us sometimes lose our cool when things don't go our way. As just one example, consider the "self-checkout" stations at most grocery and big-box stores these days. They appear to be a time-saver, but are often so picky and prone to malfunction that they can take longer than waiting in line for a human cashier.

According to news sources, a Wisconsin woman was recently charged with disorderly conduct when her frustration at a self-checkout device caused her to attack a store manager. Oddly, her weapon of choice in the attack was a VCR that she had apparently brought into the store with her.

This incident was odd, to be sure. But that's not why we're writing about it. Instead, this story seems to be a good example of police and prosecutor discretion in filing criminal charges.

Without more information, it is impossible to know whether the woman involved suffers from mental illness, some other condition or was just having a very bad day. However, an incident involving violence can lead to an array of criminal charges, and the appropriateness of particular charges in a particular instance is often a judgment call.

It is possible that this incident could have prompted assault and battery charges rather than disorderly conduct. Context is important, however. If a similar altercation had taken place in a bar, for example, police may have decided that more serious charges were warranted.

Unfortunately, police discretion often works against defendants rather than for them. If the suspect is rude or seems belligerent, police may decide to pursue assault and battery charges. And if the suspect broke a beer bottle (accidentally or on purpose), police may try to pursue charges of assault with a deadly weapon.

The facts of a given case can be open to interpretation. As such, defense attorneys can seek reduced charges if they feel their clients have been over-charged or inappropriately charged. For this and other reasons, defendants should seek the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

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