Do I need an attorney for a theft charge? 56 Answers as of June 02, 2013

Do I need a lawyer for a petty theft charge of less than $200.00? The theft was of less then $25).

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Cornish, Crowley, Rockafellow, & Sartz, PLLC
Cornish, Crowley, Rockafellow, & Sartz, PLLC | Jacob Peter Sartz IV
I would recommend retaining an attorney for this matter. This response does not contain specific legal advice. If you need specific legal advice, you should consult with an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, the court may appoint you one at the public’s expense. You are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Only if a person is ultimately convicted or if they plead guilty will they be sentenced. In Michigan, the maximum penalties for a retail fraud, third, usually charged in alleged shop-lifting cases for merchandise with a value under $200.00, is 93 days in jail, probation up to two years, a fine of not more than $500.00 or 3 times the value of the difference in price, property stolen, or money or property obtained or attempted to be obtained, whichever is greater, or both imprisonment and a fine. MCL 750.356d. Please note, however, that these are the maximum possible penalties. Judges in Michigan misdemeanor cases have a wide latitude with their sentences up to the maximum pursuant to the applicable statute. Policies and practices vary widely depending on the judge and county. An arraigning judge usually advises a defendant of their maximum possible penalties pursuant to the law.
Answer Applies to: Michigan
Replied: 11/4/2011
Law Firm of Martin & Wallentine
Law Firm of Martin & Wallentine | Jerry Lee Wallentine Jr.
Normally yes, you should hire an attorney. While theft of $200 is generally a misdemeanor, it is still a serious crime which will go on your criminal record. Additionally, there a circumstance in which a typical misdemeanor can be charged as a felony. This involves cases where there is a common scheme or certain past criminal history.
Answer Applies to: Kansas
Replied: 11/2/2011
Levine & McHenry LLC
Levine & McHenry LLC | Matthew McHenry
Whether to hire an attorney is entirely your decision-you have an absolute right to represent yourself. A lawyer, of course, will be much more familiar with the process and procedure, and will ensure you don't fall into any traps.
Answer Applies to: Oregon
Replied: 11/1/2011
Beaulier Law Office
Beaulier Law Office | Maury Beaulier
A theft offense can be very serious. A conviction would leave an indelible mark on your record and it can impact future employment and other opportunities. As a result, an aggressive defense is necessary. As a misdemeanor offense, a theft under $500 is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a 41000 fine. Often. if you have a clean record and/or viable defenses, you may be able to avoid a conviction with a Stay of Prosecution which, upon completion of certain conditions, may result in a dismissal of the charge.
Answer Applies to: Minnesota
Replied: 11/1/2011
Jules N. Fiani, Attorney at Law
Jules N. Fiani, Attorney at Law | Jules Fiani
Yes.
Answer Applies to: Michigan
Replied: 6/2/2013
    Freeborn Law Offices, P.S.
    Freeborn Law Offices, P.S. | Steve Freeborn
    You don't say anything about your criminal record and whether or not you have one. The theft for which you have been charged is a "gross misdemeanor", punishable by a maximum of 1 year in jail and a $5,000.00 fine. There is no mandatory jail time, which means the judge can decide whether or not to impose any. You may get by with only a fine; but consider the other consequences of a theft conviction: loss of job, inability to get a job, rejection from many colleges (if you plan to go), also disqualification from many scholarships, student loans and grants. Do not minimize the crime by saying the item you took "was less than $25.00". The charge is serious.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 10/31/2011
    Palumbo and Kosofsky
    Palumbo and Kosofsky | Michael Palumbo
    Yes.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 6/2/2013
    The Law Offices of Seth D. Schraier
    The Law Offices of Seth D. Schraier | Seth D. Schraier
    Since it is still possible that you could be convicted of a misdemeanor crime, it is recommended that you do hire an attorney to represent you in court, especially to help reach a plea agreement that can keep you out of jail and keep the conviction off your criminal record.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 10/31/2011
    Law Office of Richard Williams
    Law Office of Richard Williams | Richard Williams
    Any conviction for theft is a conviction involving moral turpitude and is a permanent conviction. I'd get an attorney.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 10/31/2011
    Thomas J. Tomko Attorney At law
    Thomas J. Tomko Attorney At law | Thomas J. Tomko
    Should you wish to explore defenses and perhaps even a plea which keeps this matter off your record, then yes you should have an attorney. If you do not, then you can plead guilty without an attorney. I hope that this was helpful.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 10/31/2011
    Law Office of Ronald Aronds, LLC
    Law Office of Ronald Aronds, LLC | Ronald Aronds
    You should certainly consider hiring a lawyer. If you go to court alone there is a strong chance that you will just be found guilty of the charge and then you will have a criminal record for theft. A lawyer may be able to find a way to actually win the case, and if not then will probably be able to get your theft charge amended to some lesser charge.
    Answer Applies to: New Jersey
    Replied: 10/31/2011
    Anderson Law Office
    Anderson Law Office | Scott L. Anderson
    I certainly would get representation. Theft cases, even small ones, can affect employment, travel and housing.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 10/31/2011
    Law Office of Geoffrey M. Yaryan
    Law Office of Geoffrey M. Yaryan | Geoffrey M. Yaryan
    As long as you have no prior theft, charges you will receive a fine, and likely it will be reduced to an infraction - like a traffic ticket. Probably don't need an attorney.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 10/31/2011
    Cynthia Henley, Lawyer
    Cynthia Henley, Lawyer | Cynthia Henley
    You should have a lawyer. Because it was under $50, it is a class C misdemeanor but it is a crime of moral turpitude so you want to get a deferred disposition if possible.
    Answer Applies to: Texas
    Replied: 10/31/2011
    Law Office of Eric Sterkenburg
    Law Office of Eric Sterkenburg | Eric Sterkenburg
    If you do not care if you have a petty thief charge on your record then you can handle the DA and Judge without an attorney. If you want to have a chance of the charge reduced or dismissed then hire an attorney or use the Public Defender.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 10/31/2011
    Timothy J. Thill P.C.
    Timothy J. Thill P.C. | Timothy J. Thill
    In any criminal case, it is best to have counsel. Although the possibility of jail is extremely remote (assuming this is a first time offense), he may be able to keep this off his permanent criminal record if he has counsel bargain in his behalf.
    Answer Applies to: Illinois
    Replied: 10/31/2011
    Law Office of Tracey S. Sang
    Law Office of Tracey S. Sang | Tracey Sang
    You are never obligated to have an attorney, but it is foolish not to especially as you can have the Public Defender free of charge. That said, a common disposition of such a charge (assuming you do not have a record) is to take an anti-theft class and, upon proof of successful completion, the theft charge can be dismissed. Since the amount was so small, you may also try to get the charge reduced to an infraction and simply pay a fine.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 10/31/2011
    Michael R. Nack, Attorney at Law
    Michael R. Nack, Attorney at Law | Michael R. Nack
    Yes. I would very strongly advise you to consult with an attorney. A conviction on your record for this charge could have devastating effects for you in the future, and an attorney can help you to avoid the conviction.
    Answer Applies to: Missouri
    Replied: 10/31/2011
    Law Offices of John Carney
    Law Offices of John Carney | John Carney
    Life is about making good decisions. Shoplifting is a very bad decision as you are risking arrest, jail, and a criminal record for life. It is an impulsive decision by kids who do not have a good moral compass or enough common sense to realize that eventually they will be caught and be embarrassed. Their parents will be humiliated and have to retain an attorney. They will spend thousands of dollars to get their kids out of trouble. Shoplifting is also done by drug addicts who need money for crack or heroin. Either way it is not a good choice since you can ruin your reputation and chances of getting a good career for a few dollars worth of merchandise. It costs stores billions of dollars a year and every item that weighs less than 50 pounds costs more because the stores pass the cost on to the consumer. In your case, if you are under 19 you will be eligible for Youthful Offender. If it is a first offense you will be given an ACD dismissal and not have a criminal record. People do not see shoplifting as a big deal...until they are arrested and have to go to jail and court. You will attend a Stop Shoplifting Course and learn about how many people are arrested for Petty Larceny and how it can effect you and society in general. I hope that you have learned that it is best to get a good education, a good job, and follow the law. Then you can buy whatever you want and not have to steal it. You do not want to be know as a thief and you do not want to have a criminal record. Retain a good criminal attorney to get the case dismissed and learn from your mistake.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 10/31/2011
    Shane Law Office
    Shane Law Office | Robert J. Shane
    My advice would be to hire an attorney to defend your freedom and reputation when charged with a misdemeanor theft crime. Even though the dollar amount of the theft may be low, the negative consequences resulting from a conviction are high. A prospective employer or landlord can easily conduct a criminal history background check and discover your theft conviction. A misdemeanor theft conviction on your record could cost you your job and limit your housing choices. When you represent yourself in court, you have no bargaining power with the prosecutor and may face jail time. With a lawyer, you have a better chance of keeping a conviction off your record and staying out of jail. An experienced theft defense attorney will recommend that you complete a theft offender treatment program and pay any restitution owing to the victim prior to your first court appearance. An experienced criminal defense attorney is your best defense against a theft charge.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 10/31/2011
    Law Office of James Bordonaro
    Law Office of James Bordonaro | James Albert Bordonaro
    The court will make an inquiry as to whether you knowingly give up your right to an attorney. The court will not appoint a lawyer unless you're facing jail time and the judge can make a finding in the beginning of the case that he's not going to do that. The theft may be diverted if you've not run out of prior diversions.
    Answer Applies to: Kansas
    Replied: 10/31/2011
    Greco Law Office
    Greco Law Office | Dominic Greco
    Yes an attorney knows the court system and can possibly get to a plea where the charge stays off your public record.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 10/31/2011
    Fairlie & Lippy, P.C.
    Fairlie & Lippy, P.C. | Steven Fairlie
    That is up to you, but I would strongly encourage you to get one. This would be a formal criminal record that could impact your ability to get a job or get into a school. The record will be publicly available and there are consequences that most people aren't aware of, such as if you are ever called to testify in a trial (if you get in a car accident, are fired from work, or arrested on another crime) the opposing lawyer can tell the jury about the conviction to show that you are "a liar." Theft is considered a "crimen falsi" crime which means that a conviction for it can be used to show that you are dishonest (even if you aren't). Good luck.
    Answer Applies to: Pennsylvania
    Replied: 10/31/2011
    Law Office of James A Schoenberger
    Law Office of James A Schoenberger | James A Schoenberger
    If this is your first criminal charge, most counties have diversion programs for such low-level crimes. Completion of a diversion program usually means dismissal of the charges. A good attorney may be able to see to it that you get into such a program and have a clean record.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 10/31/2011
    Law Office of Jared Altman
    Law Office of Jared Altman | Jared Altman
    You need a criminal attorney. An attorney can spot weaknesses in the case that you would never see and knows how to navigate the system and comply with all procedures. Also, the prosecutor will probably not speak with you directly so no plea bargaining will happen unless you have a lawyer.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 10/31/2011
    Betts Legal Services
    Betts Legal Services | Shawn M. Betts
    That depends. Some people resolve their cases as petty misdemeanors, which are not considered criminal convictions in Minnesota. But even a petty theft charge can result in issues with school, employment, housing, etc. if it goes on your record or comes up on a background check. Hiring an attorney can help ensure that your record remains clean.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 10/31/2011
    Dennis Roberts, a P.C.
    Dennis Roberts, a P.C. | Dennis Roberts
    NO ONE should ever face a criminal charge without a lawyer or public defender. You don't know how the system works and how they might just screw you over.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 10/28/2011
    Michael Breczinski
    Michael Breczinski | Michael Breczinski
    Yes you need an attorney. The lawyer might be able to work a deal where the conviction does not end up on your record. With few exceptions if you get a record it stays with you for LIFE. How many employers would want to hire a thief.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 10/28/2011
    Law Offices of Phil Hache
    Law Offices of Phil Hache | Phil Hache
    I would recommend hiring an attorney to help mitigate potential consequences, and to potentially get the charged reduced to an infraction or completely dismissed. You want to avoid a misdemeanor conviction if possible. A fee for an attornet on a first offense petty theft should be reasonable.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 10/28/2011
    Mark Thiessen, Attorney at Law
    Mark Thiessen, Attorney at Law | Mark Thiessen
    Absolutely. If you get convicted it's a crime against moral turpitude that could bar you from ever getting a good job.
    Answer Applies to: Texas
    Replied: 10/28/2011
    Law & Mediation Office of Jeffrey L. Pollock, Esq.
    Law & Mediation Office of Jeffrey L. Pollock, Esq. | Jeffrey Lawrence Pollock
    If you feel confident that you can negotiate a dismissal of the charges in exchange for community service, etc. (to protect your record for future school/job/military potential), then do not hire a professional to represent you. Save your money for restitution, fines, court costs, etc.
    Answer Applies to: Pennsylvania
    Replied: 10/28/2011
    Andersen Law PLLC
    Andersen Law PLLC | Craig Andersen
    That's a personal question. The maximum penalty for theft is 365 days in jail plus a $5,000 fine. Depending on your criminal history, you may be eligible for diversion. I can't tell you what to do but I would certainly hire an attorney.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 10/28/2011
    Law Offices of Paula Drake
    Law Offices of Paula Drake | Paula Drake
    I suggest you get an attorney; if you cannot afford one, apply for the public defender. If this is a first offense, often something can be worked out in a case like this. Do not walk in yourself and plead guilty to the charge. You may be able to get a reduction to an infraction or a deal or program that will lead to a dismissal of the charge altogether.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 10/28/2011
    Klisz Law Office, PLLC
    Klisz Law Office, PLLC | Timothy J. Klisz
    If you are interested in avoiding a criminal record from the charge, it is a great idea.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 10/28/2011
    Craig W. Elhart, P.C.
    Craig W. Elhart, P.C. | Craig Elhart
    Depending on where the theft occurred will depend on what the charge is. It is possible that you could be charged with larceny in a building which is a felony despite the amount involved. An attorney is there to protect your rights and answer your questions. Since the people are represented by the prosecuting attorney, an attorney on your side could be helpful.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 10/28/2011
    Attorney Paul Lancia
    Attorney Paul Lancia | Paul Lancia
    Yes.
    Answer Applies to: Massachusetts
    Replied: 6/2/2013
    Law Office of Andrew Roberts
    Law Office of Andrew Roberts | Andrew Stephen Roberts
    Yes! An attorney can get you through this with an alternative sentence and dismissal.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 10/28/2011
    Baner and Baner
    Baner and Baner | Jonathan Baner
    Sorry, but you probably do. It's a minor amount involved in the theft, but the action of stealing is serious enough to constitute a crime with up to a year in jail. Without priors I do not believe it is ever regular to serve that length of jail, but nevertheless if you can afford an attorney it is one of those things worth spending money on (typically you're looking in the 1200-3000 range for an attorney is my understanding of the market in the King-Pierce county area.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 10/28/2011
    Law Office of Charles J. Block
    Law Office of Charles J. Block | Charles J. Block
    I would suggest you at least consult with an attorney as the future ramifications of a theft conviction can be very damaging when trying to obtain employment.
    Answer Applies to: New Jersey
    Replied: 10/28/2011
    Law Office of Richard Southard
    Law Office of Richard Southard | Richard C Southard
    Petit Larceny is a class A misdemeanor punishable up to one year in jail and a $1000 fine. An experienced criminal attorney, like myself, can help prevent you from having a permanent criminal record that can not be erased and from going to jail. In fact, it's possible based on the facts that you present that they may get the entire case dismissed and sealed. The decision to hire a private attorney depends on your unique situation, your prior history, the circumstances of the offense, your financial situation and the results you desire.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 10/28/2011
    Law Office of Phillip Weiser
    Law Office of Phillip Weiser | Phillip L. Weiser
    You do not have to get an attorney, but if you want to make sure your rights are not given up needlessly, you should consult with an attorney to see what help can be given in the case before you decide to go it alone.
    Answer Applies to: Kansas
    Replied: 10/28/2011
    Charles M. Schiff, Attorney at Law
    Charles M. Schiff, Attorney at Law | Charles M. Schiff
    Your priority should be to keep your record as clean as possible. In this economic climate, you do not want a criminal conviction on your record. No matter the facts of your case, the only chance to keep it off your record is to defend. Your chances are much better with an attorney than without. It is not always necessary to obtain an outright acquittal. An attorney may be able to resolve your case short of trial with a disposition that will not result in a criminal record.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 10/28/2011
    The Law Offices of Gabriel Dorman
    The Law Offices of Gabriel Dorman | Gabriel Dorman
    You absolutely need to hire an attorney to represent you on a theft charge. A theft conviction can have devastating consequences to your future including disqualifying your from current or future employment opportunities and the loss or denial of professional licenses. As such, you have to do everything possible to avoid a theft conviction and your best chance of doing that is hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney to represent you. The lower the amount of theft the better but don't confuse that with not needing an attorney. I hope this answer was helpful. Good luck.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 10/28/2011
    Rizio & Nelson
    Rizio & Nelson | John W. Bussman
    If you're accused of misdemeanor, it's always best to have an attorney represent you. You may have defenses that you're not aware of. Even if the DA can prove that you're guilty of the crime alleged, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help minimize the punishment and may be able to help negotiate a reduced or dismissed charge.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 10/28/2011
    Gary Moore, Attorney at Law
    Gary Moore, Attorney at Law | Gary Moore
    If you are convicted for theft you will unable to get a job at CVS or McDonald's, not to mention working for a bank. You need a lawyer to avoid a theft conviction.
    Answer Applies to: New Jersey
    Replied: 10/28/2011
    Austin Legal Services, PLC
    Austin Legal Services, PLC | Jared Austin
    It's not really necessary, but it's not a bad idea. If nothing else, it gives you peace of mind that someone who is trained and experienced is handling your case. If you have no priors, you may be eligible for a diversion program which could keep the matter off of your public record. You do need to at least consult with a lawyer and have him review the police report before agreeing to plead to anything as there may be problems with the case which could lead to a dismissal.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 10/28/2011
    Law Office of Brendan M. Kelly
    Law Office of Brendan M. Kelly | Brendan M. Kelly
    An attorney can help you avoid a conviction so it is money well spent.
    Answer Applies to: Nebraska
    Replied: 10/28/2011
    Law Office of Daniel K Martin
    Law Office of Daniel K Martin | Daniel K Martin
    It is almost always best to retain a private attorney. Private attorneys have more time to work on your case and usually the have a proven track record of obtaining results for their clients or they would not be in private practice.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 10/28/2011
    Leone, Throwe, Teller, & Nagle
    Leone, Throwe, Teller, & Nagle | Adam J. Teller
    Yes. Even a "petty theft" charge (in Connecticut known as larceny 6th degree) is still a criminal offense which carries a potential jail sentence of 90 days and could result in a lifetime criminal record. Consult an attorney before going to court if at all possible, and do not discuss the case with anyone until you have done so. If you cannot afford counsel, apply to the public defender.
    Answer Applies to: Connecticut
    Replied: 10/28/2011
    Law Offices of Kenneth Wincorn P.C.
    Law Offices of Kenneth Wincorn P.C. | Kenneth Wincorn
    Yes you do. This can destroy your credit permanently.
    Answer Applies to: Texas
    Replied: 10/28/2011
    Rothstein Law PLLC
    Rothstein Law PLLC | Eric Rothstein
    Yes. You are charged with a crime. Getting convicted of it will stay on your record for life.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 10/28/2011
    Law Office of Jeff Yeh
    Law Office of Jeff Yeh | Jeff Yeh
    Theft, no matter how little, is a crime of moral turpitude, and if you have it you can forget about obtaining any kind of meaningful employment for the next decade of your life. So yes you most certainly need an attorney to try and get you off.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 10/28/2011
    Law Office of Joe Dane
    Law Office of Joe Dane | Joe Dane
    Although theft of under $50 can be an infraction, typically the DA will charge the misdemeanor petty theft. If so, you're looking at a theft offense that carries potential jail time, probation, fines and will stay on your criminal record indefinitely if you're convicted. You want to try and avoid a conviction if at all possible. That's where an attorney comes into play. Don't be shortsighted. You could be making decisions that can be very difficult, if not impossible, to undo and can have tremendous impact on your life.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 10/28/2011
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