What will happen after I was caught shoplifting? 55 Answers as of June 03, 2013

I was caught shoplifting $42.95 worth of items. The cops showed up and gave me a court hearing but they never told me what is going to happen. What do I plead? Do I need a lawyer? What happens when I plead guilty or not guilty? I don't want this to be on my record, I want this to go away as easily as possible so I can go back to my life and never do something that stupid again.

Ask a Local Attorney. 100% Anonymous. Free Answers.

Free Case Evaluation by a Local Lawyer: Click here
Cornish, Crowley, Rockafellow, & Sartz, PLLC
Cornish, Crowley, Rockafellow, & Sartz, PLLC | Jacob Peter Sartz IV
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: 11/11/2011
Levine & McHenry LLC
Levine & McHenry LLC | Matthew McHenry
At your initial appearance, you will always enter a plea of not guilty. If you are interested in having this go as smoothly as possible, I advise you to hire an attorney.
Answer Applies to: Oregon
Replied: 10/21/2011
Reza Athari & Associates, PLLC | Armand Fried
If this is your first offense, it is likely that you will be allowed to plead guilty to some small misdemeanor. You may have to attend a class (that you will have to pay for), pay a fine and make restitution to the store if they did not get the item back already. Obviously an attorney would help but is not absolutely necessary. As to whether you will have a record, it depends on what you plead guilty to.
Answer Applies to: Nevada
Replied: 10/20/2011
Law Offices of Martina A. Vigil, PC
Law Offices of Martina A. Vigil, PC | Martina A. Vigil
Yes, you need an attorney. If you plead guilty to the face of the complaint, you are going to receive the statutory sentence. If you hire an attorney to attempt to reduce the charges, your punishment may be significantly less.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 10/19/2011
Freeborn Law Offices, P.S.
Freeborn Law Offices, P.S. | Steve Freeborn
I don't know what state you are in. I am writing from Washington, so I am going to answer with Washington law. Other states are very similar. Shoplift is classified as a "gross misdemeanor", which means it is punishable by a maximum of 1 year in jail and a $5,000.00 fine. That is the maximum penalty that the judge can impose upon you. He does not have to send you to jail (but he can) if you are convicted. If this is your first offense, the likelihood of you going to jail is very very minimal. If convicted, the judge will give you a suspended sentence, which means he will suspend all jail time and a portion of the fines, on condition that you do certain things that the court may order.. Like consumer awareness counseling, law abiding behavior, etc. If you violate any of the terms the judge will put you in jail. Probationary period is generally 2 years. Having said this, you do not want a conviction on your record because it can impact your future: If you are planning to go to college, it could jeopardize your admission. It will certainly impact your ability to receive financial aid, scholarships, and government educational loans (the latter you most definitely will not receive). It can also negatively impact employment opportunities because a theft conviction is a crime of moral turpitude, which means that you cannot be trusted. Think about the jobs that require you to deal with customers and $$ (fast food is a big one). My advice to you: GET an attorney. It may cost you some money, but it will be well worth it if he/she can keep the conviction off your record. It is possible and an attorney can help you try and accomplish this. Do not take this lightly. The amount of the theft is irrelevant.
Answer Applies to: Washington
Replied: 10/19/2011
    Law Office of Richard Southard
    Law Office of Richard Southard | Richard C Southard
    If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you at no cost. You are facing at least one class A misdemeanor, Petit Larceny, which is punishable up to one year in jail and a $1000 fine. Each county treats these cases differently as far as plea bargaining policies; however in the NYC metro area, every shoplift case where it was a client's first arrest and the amount alleged to have been taken was less than $100, resulted in a resolution of the case where my client had no criminal record. It is possible with the right attorney that you may be able to have the entire case dismissed and the record sealed.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 10/19/2011
    DeVito & Visconti, PA
    DeVito & Visconti, PA | John E DeVito
    If you were not arrested by the police then they probably requested a clerk's hearing. If you can convince the clerk not to issue the complaint you will not get a criminal record. It is always wise to have an attorney present as it shows respect for the court process. It also shows that you realize the seriousness of the situation and the attorney may assist you in persuading the clerk to adopt an alternative disposition other than issuing a criminal complaint. If the complaint issues then you have to be concerned about how you plead and how the matter will appear on your record. There are many options to avoid a conviction but once the complaint issues it is on your criminal record. Consult an attorney.
    Answer Applies to: Massachusetts
    Replied: 10/18/2011
    The Law Office of Harry E. Hudson, Jr.
    The Law Office of Harry E. Hudson, Jr. | Harry E. Hudson, Jr.
    If you want any hope that this charge will go away, you need to hire an attorney.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 10/18/2011
    Law Office of Phillip Weiser
    Law Office of Phillip Weiser | Phillip L. Weiser
    You should not make any decisions until you have had the opportunity to consult with an attorney regarding your specific rights and options.
    Answer Applies to: Kansas
    Replied: 10/18/2011
    Edward  D. Dowling IV Attorney at Law
    Edward D. Dowling IV Attorney at Law | Edward D. Dowling IV
    You should hire an attorney to try to obtain an ACOD - adjournment in contemplatrion of dismissal - the case is adjourned usually for 6 months and if you do not get into trouble again it will be dismissed.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 10/18/2011
    Andersen Law PLLC
    Andersen Law PLLC | Craig Andersen
    At court you should plead not guilty. That will allow you to negotiate a deal with the prosecutor. If this is a first offense, you may be eligible for diversion. Whether you need an attorney or not will depend on whether you can make a deal with the prosecutor or not.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 10/18/2011
    Law Office of Ronald Aronds, LLC
    Law Office of Ronald Aronds, LLC | Ronald Aronds
    Go to court on your court date, plead Not Guilty, and get a lawyer. If you cannot afford a private lawyer you should apply for the public defender. You are facing having a criminal record, possible jail time, heavy fines, and community service.
    Answer Applies to: New Jersey
    Replied: 10/18/2011
    Palumbo and Kosofsky
    Palumbo and Kosofsky | Michael Palumbo
    Yes you need a lawyer.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 6/3/2013
    Law Office of Peter F. Goldscheider
    Law Office of Peter F. Goldscheider | Peter Goldscheider
    You should not plead guilty or no contest. Such a conviction is never completely removed from your record. You should consult and likely retain and experienced certified criminal law specialist who can likely negotiate a better result for you.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 10/18/2011
    Charles M. Schiff, Attorney at Law
    Charles M. Schiff, Attorney at Law | Charles M. Schiff
    The court appearance date on your citation is an Arraignment. At this appearance you plead either "guilty" or "not guilty". If you plead guilty to the misdemeanor theft with which you are charged, you will have a permanent misdemeanor theft record. Your better approach is to enter a plea of "not guilty" and have an attorney represent you. This is the only way you can hope to keep this off your permanent record.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 10/18/2011
    The Olsinski Law Firm, PLLC
    The Olsinski Law Firm, PLLC | Justin C. Olsinski
    If you plead guilty it will be on your record forever. Depending on the county will depend on how they handle the cases. I would consult an attorney in your area, usually a charge like that is a small fee and is not worth the risk of taking matters into your own hands. A theft conviction will eliminate you from many jobs and should always be taken seriously.
    Answer Applies to: North Carolina
    Replied: 10/18/2011
    Craig W. Elhart, P.C.
    Craig W. Elhart, P.C. | Craig Elhart
    Your first court appearance is called an arraignment. At the arraignment the court will advise you of the actual charge, possible penalites, your rights, including your right to counsel, and ask for a plea. If you plead guilty, it will then be set for sentencing and you will have a criminal record. If you plead not guilty, the matter will be set for pre-trial where you and/or your attorney can talk with the prosecutor. Unless you have a good defense, it is unlikely that the charge will simply go away. An attorney can answer any additional questions you may have and could work for some type of deferral at a pre-trial.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 10/18/2011
    Harrison & Harrison
    Harrison & Harrison | Samuel Harrison
    You need to at least consult with a lawyer any time you are charged with something more than a minor traffic case. Shoplifting is a crime. Even a misdemeanor shoplifting like this can have major repercussions in the future.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 10/18/2011
    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 $1000 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: 10/18/2011
    The McDonnell Law Firm, PLLC
    The McDonnell Law Firm, PLLC | Patrick J. McDonnell
    First, I would contact a lawyer. Petit larceny (stealing under $1000) is a misdemeanor,a crime, with a maximum penalty of one year in jail and/or a $1000 fine. Depending on several factors (Do you have a record? Did you comply with police? Are you remorseful? etc. etc.) you can plead it down to a violation (no a crime) or maybe even a dismissal.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 10/18/2011
    Lawrence Lewis
    Lawrence Lewis | Lawrence Lewis, PC
    You should retain an experienced attorney and get the results you are looking for.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 10/18/2011
    Law Office of Richard Williams
    Law Office of Richard Williams | Richard Williams
    A conviction for shoplifting (theft of property 3d) is a crime involving moral turpitude and will carry a record for the rest of your life, if convicted by plea of guilty or trial. You should consider hiring an attorney to see if there is a possible disposition short of a conviction.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 10/18/2011
    Michael R. Nack, Attorney at Law
    Michael R. Nack, Attorney at Law | Michael R. Nack
    If you plead guilty then you will have a conviction on your record which anyone will be able to find. In the future if you are applying for a job, an apartment, a loan, school, or just about anything, there will be a question asking if you have ever been convicted. If you lie and they find out, you will not get what you are applying for because you lied. If you tell the truth, you will not get what you are applying for either. So it is absolutely crucial for you to avoid the conviction. If you hire an attorney, the attorney can either defend the charge against you or negotiate a plea bargain that will avoid a conviction.
    Answer Applies to: Missouri
    Replied: 10/18/2011
    Klisz Law Office, PLLC
    Klisz Law Office, PLLC | Timothy J. Klisz
    You absolutely need to have a lawyer if you want any special deals.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 10/18/2011
    Timothy J. Thill P.C.
    Timothy J. Thill P.C. | Timothy J. Thill
    Of course, I would recommend you hire an attorney to represent you in this case. there are several alternatives to having a conviction enter on your record, depending on the State of the occurrence. State laws and penalties vary but I can reasonably assure you that you will not serve jail time for this.
    Answer Applies to: Illinois
    Replied: 10/18/2011
    The Law Office of Kevin O'Grady
    The Law Office of Kevin O'Grady | Kevin O'Grady
    The best way to try to not have a conviction is to hire an aggressive attorney ASAP. Hire one and go over all your options early.
    Answer Applies to: Hawaii
    Replied: 10/17/2011
    Law Office of Jared Altman
    Law Office of Jared Altman | Jared Altman
    OK. You need a lawyer. If your lucky, they may adjourn the case and eventually dismiss if you stay out of trouble for a year. No guarantees but you have a shot.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 10/17/2011
    Law Offices of Phil Hache
    Law Offices of Phil Hache | Phil Hache
    When charged with a misdemeanour, there is an arraignment where you enter a plea, followed by Pre-trial, then potentially trial if the case is not resolved by then. I have been successful at getting similar cases dismissed so there is no criminal record, which is something that should try to be avoided here. This can be done by a straight dismissal, informal diversion, diversion, or civil compromise.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 10/17/2011
    Law Office of Charles J. Block
    Law Office of Charles J. Block | Charles J. Block
    I would strongly suggest you consult with an attorney as if you are convicted you face a fine up to $1000 and up to 6-months in jail, not yo mention you will now have a record.
    Answer Applies to: New Jersey
    Replied: 10/17/2011
    Anderson Law Office
    Anderson Law Office | Scott L. Anderson
    Shoplifting is serious if convicted. It can affect travel, employment and housing. Please seek representation to try and keep this off of your record.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 10/17/2011
    D T Pham Associates, PLLC
    D T Pham Associates, PLLC | Duncan T Pham
    You should get a lawyer if you expect to have every question answered - otherwise you will be facing the "I cannot give you legal advice" barrier at the courthouse.
    Answer Applies to: Texas
    Replied: 10/17/2011
    Law Office of Kathryn L. Hudson
    Law Office of Kathryn L. Hudson | Kathryn L. Hudson
    The amount is small enough that you will likely be given probation. To keep this off of your record you should hire an attorney to negotiate a delayed prosecution or "pass." What this means is that if you do not break the law within a specific period of time, usually six months to a year, the offense will be expunged as if it never happened.
    Answer Applies to: Arkansas
    Replied: 10/17/2011
    Law Office of Eric Sterkenburg
    Law Office of Eric Sterkenburg | Eric Sterkenburg
    The police did not give you a court hearing. Most likely they took the statements from the store security and from you and put it in a report. Also the police should give you a notice to appear in court. The notice has the code section that they think you violated and the date and court house that you should appear for your arrangement. When you show up for the court date look for your name on the master calendar, it will be the list of all cases that will be handled that day. If you find you name go to the court room that is listed for you. If your name is not on the list, check in with the clerks office and let them know that you did show up. You should get a new date in the mail. Your first court appearance will by your arraignment. You will be told what your rights are and what the charges are. You will be asked if you plead guilty or not guilty. You will be told what your punishment will be if you plead guilty. If you do not have a lawyer at this time you may ask that the hearing be continued to give you time to find a lawyer. You have the choice to see if you qualify for the public defender. When you have representation your lawyer will get copies of the charging papers and the police report. He will then go over the report with you to make sure that the facts are correct. He will ask you what happened from your side. Be honest and do not hold anything back. The more correct information your attorney has the better he can represent you. Your attorney will talk with the District Attorney and find out what they want you to plead to. He will try to talk then into a lower charge or penalties. If you plead guilty to petty theft it will go on your record if your attorney cannot make a deal for deferred entry of judgment. If you need to plead guilty and it is without a DEJ then after your probation you may petition for an expungement. You do need help from an attorney on this case.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 10/17/2011
    Law Office of Jeff Yeh
    Law Office of Jeff Yeh | Jeff Yeh
    You most definitely need a lawyer. Petty theft is a crime of moral turpitude, and if you have it you can forget about obtaining any kind of meaningful employment in the next decade of your life. Hopefully you were not foolish enough to have signed any statement or incriminated yourself in other ways.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 10/17/2011
    Michael Breczinski
    Michael Breczinski | Michael Breczinski
    You want to get an attorney. If you never did something like this again then the lawyer might be able to work something out where, if you do everything the court wants, then you end up with no record. Do not go in and just plead guilty. You will have a record and no bargaining power.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 10/17/2011
    Mark Thiessen, Attorney at Law
    Mark Thiessen, Attorney at Law | Mark Thiessen
    You need to make sure not to get found guilty. You should definitely consult a lawyer. It shouldn't be that expensive for such a minor charge so shop around.
    Answer Applies to: Texas
    Replied: 10/17/2011
    Law Offices of Kenneth Wincorn P.C.
    Law Offices of Kenneth Wincorn P.C. | Kenneth Wincorn
    The answer depends on the court your case was assigned to. If the District Attorney will allow a pre-trial diversion or in Dallas a Memo Agreement and you successfully complete the requirements, your case will be dismissed without a conviction and without probation. A local attorney should be able to advise you how best to handle the case.
    Answer Applies to: Texas
    Replied: 10/17/2011
    Austin Legal Services, PLC
    Austin Legal Services, PLC | Jared Austin
    While it is not necessary to have an attorney, it is a good idea. If it is your first offense, you may be eligible for a diversion program that would keep it off your public record provided that you do community service. There may be other options as well. Seek out an attorney if in doubt.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 10/17/2011
    Betts Legal Services
    Betts Legal Services | Shawn M. Betts
    On many first time offenses, a diversion program or some sort of disposition to keep a conviction off your record even if you plead guilty is certainly possible. It might be a good idea to consult with or retain an attorney to ensure such a disposition.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 10/17/2011
    Keyser Law Firm
    Keyser Law Firm | Christopher W. Keyser
    While you can plead guilty at your first court appearance and be done with your case, I don't recommend it. You are probably charged with misdemeanor theft which carries a max penalty of 90 days in jail or a $1,000.00 fine, or both. Realistically you will not be facing jail time or the max fine amount. Most first-time offense result in a fine between $150.00 and $500.00, perhaps some community service and 1 year of probation. The real concern is keeping your record clean which is not automatically guaranteed. Keeping your record clear of a guilty plea (or conviction) will save you a great deal of headache when searching for employment in the future. If you want to maximize your chances of keeping your record clear, I recommend contact a defense attorney.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 10/17/2011
    Law Office of Daniel K Martin
    Law Office of Daniel K Martin | Daniel K Martin
    You should hire a lawyer because shoplifting can be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony. (commercial burglary). Additionally a lawyer may help you get a diversion program that would allow you to get the case dismissed.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 10/17/2011
    Law Office of Andrew Roberts
    Law Office of Andrew Roberts | Andrew Stephen Roberts
    You should have an attorney who can work out an alternative sentence wherein your matter will probably get dismissed . It is worth it to have an attorney.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 10/17/2011
    John Segelbaum, P.S.
    John Segelbaum, P.S. | John Segelbaum
    You must plead not guilty and get an attorney. You face up to 364 days in jail and a $5000.00 fine. You could also be assessed a civil penalty by the store of up to $650.00 plus the value of the item. Your attorney can arrange for you to pay the store and then try to get the criminal charge dismissed. If you plead guilty, you will be convicted and sentenced and you will have a criminal record.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 10/17/2011
    bark & karpf
    bark & karpf | peter bark
    It all depends on where you were caught. In the five boroughs of NYC you would most likely be offered an Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal, which means a delayed dismissal. You would have no record. Other places are not so easy on shoplifters, but I need to know the county where you were arrested.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 10/17/2011
    Rothstein Law PLLC
    Rothstein Law PLLC | Eric Rothstein
    You are charged with a Class A misdemeanor so you need a lawyer. You don't say where this took place but if its in NYC feel free to contact me as I am a former federal and State prosecutor and have been handling criminal defense for over 15 years.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 10/17/2011
    Durflinger Oliver & Associates
    Durflinger Oliver & Associates | James Edmund Oliver
    Here's a video with a some information about shoplifting charges: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_TwKsWYxqUY
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 10/17/2011
    Law Offices of Elliott Zarabi
    Law Offices of Elliott Zarabi | Elliott Zarabi
    First of all you should definitley look into getting an attorney. They probably charged you with a 484(a) as a misdemeanor. However, depending on your past criminal record you have a few options. You can even possibly get a dismissal.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 10/17/2011
    Dennis Roberts, a P.C.
    Dennis Roberts, a P.C. | Dennis Roberts
    There may be some sort of misdemeanor diversion in your jurisdiction - you go to some classes and then the case is dismissed and it doesn't go on your record. You probably should get a local lawyer or the public defender.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 10/17/2011
    Wallin & Klarich
    Wallin & Klarich | Stephen D. Klarich
    Critical to get an attorney and try to keep you record clean. Convicted of a theft related offense would have negative consequences if you ever look for employment. You need to do all you can to get your case reduced or dismissed.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 10/17/2011
    Law Office of Joe Dane
    Law Office of Joe Dane | Joe Dane
    In any criminal case, you absolutely need a lawyer. You're looking at a theft offense that will seriously impact your ability to find a job in the future, pass background checks, etc. The dollar amount is relatively low - there may be a way for your attorney to get it lowered to an infraction and/or work out a dismissal after you jump through some hoops (a class, community service, etc.). If you can afford to hire an attorney, do it BEFORE your court date. You and your lawyer can start working on your defense now, rather than scramble after the arraignment. The other benefit is that your attorney can appear in court on your behalf without you having to go. If you cannot afford one (and you'll never know until you meet with a few local criminal defense attorneys and discuss the case & fees), then you must show up, plead not guilty and request a public defender.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 10/17/2011
    Coulter's Law
    Coulter's Law | Coulter K. Richardson
    Plead not guilty and ask for time to get a lawyer. Find one in the county that you were charged who is familiar with the prosecutor.
    Answer Applies to: New Jersey
    Replied: 10/17/2011
    Jules N. Fiani, Attorney at Law
    Jules N. Fiani, Attorney at Law | Jules Fiani
    You will get arrested.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 10/17/2011
Click to View More Answers:
12 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Free Legal QuestionsConnect with a local attorney