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Daughter Removed Over $5 Safeway 'Sandwich Theft'

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By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on November 03, 2011 6:46 AM

A Hawaii couple was shopping in a local grocery store when the wife, Nicole Leszczynski, felt faint. She was 30 weeks pregnant, so she and her husband decided to munch on two $5 sandwiches while shopping.

Except during the course of their trip, they forgot to pay for their impromptu meal. The couple was arrested for the sandwich theft and their 3-year-old daughter was taken away from them by Child Protective Services. The simple errand officially turned into a nightmare.

How could a parent lose their child like this?

Granted, their daughter was returned 18 hours later, Leszczynski and her husband were both appalled that they were charged with fourth degree theft.

They even offered to pay for the sandwiches when a grocery store employee pointed out they hadn't paid. Instead, they say that the store manager called police.

Their daughter was removed because both Leszczynski and her husband were arrested, reports Fox News. CPS automatically takes custody of a child if both parents are incarcerated, like in this situation.

So while the actions taken by CPS may seem abrupt, they were within the letter of the law. And in fact the agency was only doing what was required of it.

The real issue may center more on if Safeway's actions were in line.

The very fact that they offered to pay for the $5 sandwiches might help the Leszczynskis' case against the shoplifting charge. Under most theft statutes, there's usually a requirement that the defendant must have intended to permanently deprive the owner of their property.

It does not appear that the couple intended to take the sandwiches without paying. Even Safeway seems to agree that arresting the couple may have been rash. "It appears we may not have handled this matter in the best possible way and we are taking the situation seriously," Safeway said in a statement.

That wasn't good enough, though. So, after a national outcry, Safeway told Honolulu police Tuesday that it won't press charges against the couple. Having a daughter taken by CPS was traumatizing enough.

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