If you steal a candy bar does de minimis apply? Why or why not? What’s about other forms of crime in general?

3 Answers 3


Because it's a guideline, not a rule

It falls within the scope of prosecutorial (and judicial) discretion rather than being a law with force of its own. For shoplifting, a police officer is far more likely to issue a warning than make an arrest - that's de minimis at work.

  • 1
    Prosecutorial discretion is irrelevant here: the question is solely about judicial discretion. Assuming charges are pressed, why don't judges dismiss them as de minimis?
    – Greendrake
    Commented Jan 20, 2023 at 0:40
  • 2
    @Greendrake because shopowners have political power, shoplifters don't. Practically, most societies have learned that if you don't prosecute something, large numbers of people will do it.
    – Tiger Guy
    Commented Jan 20, 2023 at 15:42

The punishment should also fit the crime.

It costs real money to prosecute. It also cost more money to prosecute than to defend. Also, depending on the location DA offices (or the UK equivalent) may be understaffed and overworked.

The unsavory reality is not every case can be prosecuted or should be. No justice system is perfect.


An assessment of de minimis is likely to account not just for a particular instance of a crime, but for that kind of crime in general.

In other words, small crimes which are nevertheless extremely frequent, characterised by repeat offences or widespread flouting, may not be considered de minimis.

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