Country Mart's doughnuts — fried fresh daily in the store — sell for just 52 cents each. . . . He stole a doughnut. A single doughnut. . . . Scott A. Masters, 41, is accused of shoplifting the pastry and pushing a store worker who tried to stop him. The worker was unhurt. But with that shove, his shoplifting turned into a strong-arm robbery. . . . because Masters has a prior record, he could get a sentence of 30 years to life.
Les Miserables, much?
Prosecutors instinctively go for the maximum charge colorable in any case, regardless of how sensible the charge may be, for plea bargaining purposes. I'd like to hope that the system will eventually secure a reasonable resolution (e.g. a plea to petty theft and a plea to simple assault, to be served concurrently as separate crimes), but, often these cases spiral out of control.