What can happen on court for a first time theft charge? 13 Answers as of June 12, 2013

I was arrested for shop lifting at a retail store in Los Angeles last week. I have no record nor have I even shoplifted before this day. I saw a partly open package for a micro-SD card and I got an evil idea. I put it in my pocket thinking that the thing is so small. This is like the easiest thing in the world! I can't believe my stupidity. I walked out the store and was instantly stopped/cuffed by a local police and taken to the back room. In tears I complied with them and answered questions, I could not believe how stupid I was. They got all of my information and explained to me what was going to happen from their end. The police then came and switched handcuffs, took note of me, and then walked me out to the car so they could shove me in the back and drag me to jail. When we got there, they checked to make sure I was not lying about having no history, put me in a holding cell for a little while, and gave me ticket-instructions. Today I am going back to the jail to self-book myself, as I have seven days to do so. Then I am waiting for a court date, and letters from the retail store in the mail. When I go to court, I understand how to go to conduct myself, but I am just not sure what to plea. Everyone is telling me to plead not guilty and get a public defender so I can get a lesser charge. However, if the sentence the judge gives me is not that bad I am considering to plea guilty. The reason for this is that I do not have a lot of time left in Los Angeles with my family before I return to Orlando to continue school. I do have no priors and a background of doing community service and starting a non-profit so I believe that eventually once probation is up I can get this expunged as a time stupid thing. I guess at the end of the day, I am here looking for advice to help me make decisions and sleep better at night.

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Freeborn Law Offices, P.S.
Freeborn Law Offices, P.S. | Steve Freeborn
Shop lift is a gross misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $5,000.00 fine. Assuming you are convicted, or plead guilty, whether or not you do jail time is ultimately up to the judge. First time offense, you probably will not do jail time, but will receive probation. However the consequences reach far beyond what happens in court. Thin about job prospects. You have to disclose a conviction on any job application. No one wants to hire someone they can't trust. Think about school/college. A conviction may disqualify you from attending certain colleges and will prevent you from getting federal student aid. My advice: hire an attorney.
Answer Applies to: Washington
Replied: 10/1/2012
Michael Breczinski
Michael Breczinski | Michael Breczinski
Do not plead guilty. get a lawyer appointed or retained. Try to work out something so that you end up with no record. Most courts have some sort of program or a possibility of this happening if the person has no prior convictions. A theft record really can put a crimp on your life.
Answer Applies to: Michigan
Replied: 9/28/2012
Universal Law Group, Inc. | Francis John Cowhig
Depending on the amount allegedly stolen, shoplifting can be met with a mere citation, or charged as a misdemeanor or even a felony, with possible jail sentences of 6 months to 3 years. It will be up to the D.A. to determine how the crime will be charged.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 9/28/2012
Steven Alpers | Steven Alpers
You need to talk to a lawyer in LA, a private lawyer could appear on your behalf. A public defender may also appear on your behalf.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 6/12/2013
Timothy J. Thill P.C.
Timothy J. Thill P.C. | Timothy J. Thill
Get the public defender or a private attorney, because a conviction of this crime will stay on your record for life, and you will not be able to find good jobs, enter the military, or perhaps enter a good college.
Answer Applies to: Illinois
Replied: 9/27/2012
    Law Office of Phillip Weiser
    Law Office of Phillip Weiser | Phillip L. Weiser
    I always advise to get the services of a well qualified attorney. You can represent yourself, of course, but usually an attorney can get the case resolved better than going by yourself.
    Answer Applies to: Kansas
    Replied: 9/27/2012
    Law Office of Mark Bruce
    Law Office of Mark Bruce | Mark Corwin Bruce
    This will likely be broken down to an infraction and you will be given a fine.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 9/27/2012
    Edward  D. Dowling IV Attorney at Law
    Edward D. Dowling IV Attorney at Law | Edward D. Dowling IV
    You should hire an attorney or if you qualify for a public defender use that attorney. Generally you will do better with an attorney than without one. It may be better to pay a fine than be on probation but discuss this with your attorney.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 9/27/2012
    Gary Moore, Attorney at Law
    Gary Moore, Attorney at Law | Gary Moore
    A shoplifting conviction will keep you from working for CVS or McDonalds, not to mention a bank, investment firm, computer company or insurance company. Don't so casually screw up your future. Get a lawyer to avoid the shoplifting conviction, which is possible.
    Answer Applies to: New Jersey
    Replied: 9/27/2012
    Law Office of Jeff Yeh
    Law Office of Jeff Yeh | Jeff Yeh
    Jail is the least of your concerns. Petty theft is a crime of moral turpitude, and having it means you can kiss your employment aspirations goodbye for the next decade of your life. Hire a lawyer before you do something you will regret.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 9/27/2012
    Law Offices of John Carney
    Law Offices of John Carney | John Carney
    If you stole less than $100 worth of merchandise and it is a first offense a good lawyer can usually negotiate a dismissal or a reduction to a violation with no criminal record in one or two appearances. A public defender may not be able to get the same results and they usually just plead people guilty to whatever the prosecutor offers. California allows you to get certain convictions expunged.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 9/27/2012
    Attorney at Law | Michael P. Vollandt
    If this is a misdemeanor theft of merchant you will get a file and summary probation. You can go about your business and go back to Florida. As the Judge at your arraignment what will be the sentence. If you can live with it - then you should seriously consider taking the sentence and be done with it.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 9/27/2012
    The Umansky Law Firm
    The Umansky Law Firm | William D. Umansky
    You need to repost your question on the California board.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 6/12/2013
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