Although questions often arise in criminal cases about the propriety of specific law enforcement and prosecutorial conduct, most people recognize that there is a public safety necessity for the police and criminal justice systems. In fact, during instances where police and prosecutors improperly cut corners, we often hear the excuse that there are limited resources to ensure public safety.
In this context, it boggles the minds as to why a college student was charged with several charges including theft, fraud, and possession of stolen goods after filling an empty cup with ice after he had purchased some french fries from the school cafeteria.
According to accounts of the incident, a Brookdale Community College student was in the cafeteria and purchased some fries. The clerk had walked away before he could ask for a cup for some water. So the student took a cup and filled it with ice and went and sat down at a table. After several minutes the cafeteria manager approached him and accused him of stealing and informed him that the police were on the way.
As ridiculous as this situation may seem, it could have real consequences for this student. Having criminal charges on your record can give potential employers and others apparent cause for concern. Of course if he was able to explain the situation, few would ever hold it against him. But unfortunately it often does not get to that point, seeing a criminal record that includes theft may make many simply pass him over without further consideration. Fortunately he can fight these charges. But the entire situation calls into question not only the judgment of the college employees and responding officers but also prosecutorial priorities more generally.
Source: CBS Channel 7 News, "Student arrested and charged for ice theft," Phil Lipof, March 22, 2012