Is my theft going to be a misdemeanor or felony? 6 Answers as of April 14, 2011

I want to know if I could go to jail, or pay a big fine. I already owe the company I stole from 300 and I cant afford anything else. I also dont have a record and really dont want to get one. I dont think the merchandise was worth more than 75 dollars at the most. I also wanted to know if I needed a lawyer to come to court with me to help it not be a felony or a misdemeanor or be on my record. I was wondering how I can get community service instead of paying any thing because i dont have a job and i only have half the money in my savings for the 300 i owe the stores lawyer but i really dont want a record.

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The Law Office of Harry E. Hudson, Jr.
The Law Office of Harry E. Hudson, Jr. | Harry E. Hudson, Jr.
From your post, I think you have one of those letters from the company's attorney demanding a payment. I routinely tell clients to ignore those letters as the company probably cannot prove damages. Their claim is for the time the loss prevention spent. They are paid to be there whether or not you or anyone else is suspected of stealing something. If you do not have the funds for an attorney, ask the court to appoint one. The only thing you tell the court is that you want an attorney. Not having a record might be wishful thinking.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 4/13/2011
Law Office of Tracey S. Sang
Law Office of Tracey S. Sang | Tracey Sang
Felony grand theft is charged when the merchandise is worth over $400. Of course you need an attorney but you can have the Public Defender if you can't afford an attorney. A good lawyer can often negotiate a charge from a felony to a misdemeanor. You need to talk to an attorney about whether you need to pay the store's lawyer - these are fees that they bill you for but often do not have to pay. Good luck.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 4/12/2011
Nelson & Lawless
Nelson & Lawless | Terry Nelson
It is entirely up to the DA what criminal charge[s] to file, based upon what he thinks he can prove. Youll know the actual charges filed when you are Arraigned at your first court appearance. When charged with a misdemeanor, you face up to 6-12 months in jail, plus fines up to $1000 on each count. Effective plea-bargaining, using whatever legal defenses, facts and sympathies there may be, could possibly keep you out of jail, or at least dramatically reduce it, depending upon all the facts and evidence, and on your record and priors, or lack of. Not exactly a do it yourself project in court for someone who does not know how to effectively represent himself against a professional prosecutor intending to convict. If you don't know how to do these things effectively, then hire an attorney that does, who will try to get a dismissal, diversion program, reduction or other decent outcome through plea bargain, or take it to trial. If you can't afford private counsel, you can apply for the Public Defender at your first court hearing.

Whether or not the company files criminal charges, they can sue you to collect their damages. Even if you pay their demand, they can still file criminal charges. Consult with your attorney before doing anything.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 4/12/2011
Law Office of Jeff Yeh
Law Office of Jeff Yeh | Jeff Yeh
Unless you have a prior theft offense, a theft involving this amount should be a misdemeanor. But, it always is nice to have a lawyer go to court for you as opposed to yourself. Remember theft is a crime of moral turpitude, so it should be avoided as best as possible.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 4/12/2011
Law Office of Joe Dane
Law Office of Joe Dane | Joe Dane
Theft of up to $950 is now petty theft and a misdemeanor. The only way this gets to be a potential felony would be if they charged you with burglary by thinking you entered with the intent to steal. Do you need a lawyer, even if it is going to be a misdemeanor? Absolutely. A theft conviction, even a petty theft, can haunt you for years and years. With a lawyer, you stand a much better chance of trying to avoid a conviction in the first place - your goal in this situation. Assuming you have time before your court date, start contacting local criminal defense attorneys that routinely practice in the court where your case will be heard. Don't go with just any attorney. You absolutely want somebody who does exclusively criminal defense. Meet face to face to discuss the facts and defense strategy.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 4/12/2011
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