What will happen if I was caught shoplifting? 43 Answers as of June 24, 2011

Today I was caught stealing a pair of $30 earringsy. I was seen by a police officer who issued me a citation but did not arrest me. I now have to schedule a court date and pay fines to the store. What should I expect in court and how should I plead? This is my first offense and it was a serious lapse of judgement on my part.

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Michael Anthony Wing, P.C.
Michael Anthony Wing, P.C. | Michael Anthony Wing
You should try to get a lawyer to help you try to avoid the conviction for theft being on your record. Plead not guilty. Ask for a lawyer if you could not afford to hire your own. Stay well.
Answer Applies to: Alabama
Replied: 6/24/2011
Law Office of Richard Williams
Law Office of Richard Williams | Richard Williams
I do not understand how you were not arrested. When you appear in court you will be asked to plead either guilty or not guilty. If you plead guilty or if you are tried and found guilty, you could be facing one year in the county or metro jail and a fine of up to $500 in municipal court or up to $6,000 in state court. There is a permanent record of your conviction.
Answer Applies to: Alabama
Replied: 6/17/2011
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 get an ACOD ( Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal ) which means that the case is adjourned for 6 months and if you do not get in trouble again the case will be automatically dismissed.
Answer Applies to: New York
Replied: 6/16/2011
Bloom Legal, LLC
Bloom Legal, LLC | Seth J. Bloom
You most likely have the option of either paying the fine and avoiding a court appearance (this is equivalent to a guilty plea) or appearing in court to enter a plea (of not guilty, guilty or no contest). It may be possible to have the charges against you reduced or dismissed in return for agreeing to a certain plea, but you should consider consulting with a local attorney before accepting any sort of plea deal so that you fully understand the consequences of such an agreement. Your other option is to fight the charges in which case you should probably hire an attorney to assist you with your defense. If you are convicted of the charges against you, then you may want to consider filing an expungement to have the conviction removed from your criminal record. If you are seeking legal representation in this matter in Louisiana, we invite you to contact our firm at the information on this page for a free case evaluation.
Answer Applies to: Louisiana
Replied: 6/16/2011
Michael Breczinski
Michael Breczinski | Michael Breczinski
The first thing is you should plead not guilty. Most courts have programs for first time shoplifters. An attorney would be familiar these type of programs and be able to help get you into one.
Answer Applies to: Michigan
Replied: 6/15/2011
    LynchLaw
    LynchLaw | Michael Thomas Lynch
    I appreciate you feel it was a serious lapse of judgment, but don't compound that decision with another poor decision. I tell clients over and over, it does not matter what you know, about the charge, it only matters what the District Attorney can prove. The usual, and typically proper, plea is "Not Guilty." Such a plea will give you and/or your attorney time to review the evidence against you. You can always withdrawal you plea and enter a guilty plea at a later date if the evidence dictates you should do so. Good Luck.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/15/2011
    The Law Office of Harry E. Hudson, Jr.
    The Law Office of Harry E. Hudson, Jr. | Harry E. Hudson, Jr.
    Store cannot issue fines. Based on what you said about your record, strongly suggest that you hire an attorney. Quiet chats with judge and DA in chambers sometimes produce good results.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/15/2011
    Lacy Fields, Attorney at Law, LLC
    Lacy Fields, Attorney at Law, LLC | Lacy Fields
    Your first court date will be when the judge reads you the charges and you enter a plea of not guilty. Then the judge will ask you if you intend to hire an attorney. If this is your first offense, most attorneys can get the charges reduced to something less serious. If you need any help, please don't hesitate to contact my office.
    Answer Applies to: Missouri
    Replied: 6/15/2011
    Law Office of Eric Sterkenburg
    Law Office of Eric Sterkenburg | Eric Sterkenburg
    your offer should be 3 years summary probation you could get this reduced to a commercial trespassing but that depends upon the court in the DA.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/15/2011
    Jonathan S. Willett Attorney at Law
    Jonathan S. Willett Attorney at Law | Jonathan S. Willett
    You should first see if they will offer a plea bargain, such as a "deferred judgment." That is a special deal that if you satisfy probation, you will not receive a permanent conviction. If they don't offer that, ask for a continuance and see a lawyer.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 6/15/2011
    Law Offices of John Carney
    Law Offices of John Carney | John Carney
    Your summary states that you were caught shoplifting a $30 pair of earrings. This was your first arrest and you were given a summons to appear in court. Your case will most likely be dismissed with an ACD delayed dismissal as long as you are not arrested again in the next 6 months. You will not have a criminal record or pay any fine, but you should retain an experienced criminal record to make sure that they case is dismissed since some courts require that you plead to a Disorderly Conduct or do community service, go to shoplifting school, or take some other course in order to get the dismissal.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 6/15/2011
    Andersen Law PLLC
    Andersen Law PLLC | Craig Andersen
    Start by pleading "not guilty." That way, you will be able to negotiate with the prosecutor. If this is your first offense, you may be eligible for diversion. When one enters diversion, he or she agrees to waive his or her speedy trial rights for 18 months; waives his or her right to a jury trial; stipulates or agrees that the police report would be admissible evidence in the event that diversion is terminated and further writes a confession. At the end of a year, if you have had no new violations and abided by all court requirements, the case would be dismissed. If, on the other hand, you have a new criminal law violation during the year, fail to complete the court-mandated conditions or failed to pay costs, fees, and penalties; including restitution, the court would simply read the police report and find you guilty and proceed to sentencing. The main point about diversion is it puts the burden on you but rewards you with a clean record. You may be treated like a criminal or a child for a year but that's better than being a criminal. As my mom always told me when I was in junior high school, "Play the game. It is only temporary." There are other options similar to diversion but they typically require a guilty plea or some other type of admission in case you fail to comply. The point is you need an attorney. Once you are convicted of a crime, the world will view you as a criminal long after you finish probation. Please feel free to contact our firm should you have any questions and remember friends don't let friends plead guilty.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 6/15/2011
    Nelson & Lawless
    Nelson & Lawless | Terry Nelson
    That citation WAS your arrest. What can you do? Hire an attorney, unless you know how to effectively represent yourself in court against a professional prosecutor intending to convict. No amount of free 'tips and hints' from here or anywhere else are going to effectively help you in your defense, other than the advice to exercise the 5th Amendment right to SHUT UP and do NOT talk to anyone except an attorney about the case. That includes on this or any other web site or public forum. It also includes any communication or dealings with the store agents. Most police and prosecutors will happily tell you that 95% of people convict themselves by trying to be 'helpful and cooperative', either during initial contact, questioning, interview or interrogation. If serious about hiring counsel to help in this, and if this is in SoCal courts, feel free to contact me. Your attorney may be able to negotiate a civil compromise agreement with the store that will avoid you being convicted.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/15/2011
    Palumbo and Kosofsky
    Palumbo and Kosofsky | Michael Palumbo
    You were arrested but just not taken into custody. Shoplifting is a serious crime that carries up to 1 year in jail.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 6/15/2011
    Gregory Casale Attorney at Law
    Gregory Casale Attorney at Law | Gregory Casale
    In MA, a 1st Offense Shoplifting charge does not include jail time in the possible sentencing. That means that you will probably get no more than a fine. However, if you get a Guilty verdict or plea, the long term consequences could be much more harsh than what they appear. People with even minor offenses are having difficulty in finding employment and getting financial aid for education. The job market is so sluggish that employers are screening out anyone with any sort of criminal conviction in many cases. You should at least speak with an attorney. The court will not appoint one for you because there is no possibility of jail time, but it is still very important to avoid the guilty finding. If you want to discuss this in more detail, there is no fee for the telephone consultation.
    Answer Applies to: Massachusetts
    Replied: 6/15/2011
    Thomas J. Tomko Attorney At law
    Thomas J. Tomko Attorney At law | Thomas J. Tomko
    In Michigan, the typical charge is Retail Fraud 3rd. It is a 93 day misdemeanor. In some courts, there exists a First Offender Program which can result in the matter not being on your record. Depending on your age, yo u may be eligible for YTA treatment. In other Courts, you may be eligible for a 771.1 plea, which will take the matter off your record after one year. You should consult with your attorney to find out the options for your Court and jurisdiction. The likely sentence is probation for 1-year, together with fines and costs. In some Courts, there is a misdemeanor morality or similar course you must attend.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 6/15/2011
    Law Office of Jared Altman
    Law Office of Jared Altman | Jared Altman
    Ok. You're asking a lot! First, you must be represented by an attorney. Second, the penalties for a first offense of Petit Larceny if you have NO other criminal record are usually not that severe except when aggravating circumstances exist. It does not sound like any aggravating circumstances are presented in your case. I cannot be more specific because I don't know where you are charged. The treatment of these offenses can vary from County to County. Each District Attorney (every County has its own) may take a different view on how to handle these cases.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 6/15/2011
    Theodore W. Robinson, P.C.
    Theodore W. Robinson, P.C. | Theodore W. Robinson
    You would be best off getting an attorney to represent you in court who knows what they're doing and can get the best outcome for you. Plead not guilty initially and then the conferencing will take place and that's when the charge gets reduced. Hire a good lawyer first. Good luck.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 6/15/2011
    Law Office of Phillip Weiser
    Law Office of Phillip Weiser | Phillip L. Weiser
    Shoplifting is called petit theft as it is charged. Petit theft is a Class A misdemeanor which can carry as much as 12 months jail time and $2500 fine. A plea to this charge will result in a criminal conviction which could affect your future employment or school plans. You may be eligible for a Diversion on your first offense. You should consult with an experienced attorney.
    Answer Applies to: Kansas
    Replied: 6/14/2011
    Law Office of Andrew Subin
    Law Office of Andrew Subin | Andrew Subin
    Plead not guilty and speak in person with a good attorney.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 6/14/2011
    Law Office of Brendan M. Kelly
    Law Office of Brendan M. Kelly | Brendan M. Kelly
    Based on what you report you should contact me so that I can try and get you in the diversion program to avoid any convictions being placed on your record. A theft conviction can make it very hard to get a job.
    Answer Applies to: Nebraska
    Replied: 6/14/2011
    Allan & Summary
    Allan & Summary | Justin Summary
    You should plead not guilty and hire an attorney if at all possible. You should make every attempt to try and avoid a conviction being place on your record as it has the potential to follow you around for the rest of your life.
    Answer Applies to: Missouri
    Replied: 6/14/2011
    Fitzpatrick, Mariano, & Santos, PC
    Fitzpatrick, Mariano, & Santos, PC | Raymond J. Savoy
    the court makes the final decision on your punishment It can range from a dismissal of your case to jail time. The penalty is based on numerous factors, including the seriousness of the offense and your past criminal history. In Connecticut, for a first time minor offense, an experienced criminal attorney can negotiate probation with no jail time.
    Answer Applies to: Connecticut
    Replied: 6/14/2011
    Law Office of Andrew Roberts
    Law Office of Andrew Roberts | Andrew Stephen Roberts
    You need an attorney to negotiate an alternative sentence to keep this off your record- providing you are eligible. Do not pay anything to the store without a court order.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/14/2011
    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. Any person who is confronted at a store with allegations that they allegedly stole something at a store should consult with an attorney. In some limited instances, employees or the owner of the business may not wish to get the police involved. However, a majority of commercial retailers, especially large discount retailers (i.e., Target, Sams-Club, etc.), have thorough "loss-recovery" programs and will usually contact the police and file a police report. Anyone allegedly involved should carefully review any paperwork they received prior to being released and contact the court if they not know if they were ultimately charged with anything or what specifically they are being charged with. The applicable charges have a huge impact on the potential long term consequences. Anyone charged with a criminal offense is presumed innocent until proven guilty. In certain situations, police officers may arrive at the location of the store and meet with the person allegedly involved. If the person is potentially being charged with a more serious offense, they are usually taken into custody and arraigned. If the charges appear to be less severe, police officers may also issue a ticket and release the person from the location of the store. This ticket would list what the person is being charged with. If the person was charged with a misdemeanor, they would need to turn themselves in at the court noted on the ticket to be arraigned. If the person is being charged with a civil infraction, they only have a short period of time to request a hearing; otherwise the court will issue a money judgment against the charged individual for the amount requested. In some instances, an investigating police officer will not issue anything nor take anyone into custody at that time; instead, they will go back and perform more investigative work prior to requesting any charges. Occasionally, after an investigation, the police and local prosecutor will elect not to pursue charges. However, even if a person is immediately released from the store after the initial investigation, they may ultimately be charged with something. It all depends on their particular, unique circumstances. If a person allegedly stole something from a store, they may be charged with anything from a misdemeanor or civil infraction to felonies counts, depending on the factors and depending on what the prosecutor could potentially prove. A person's prior criminal history, especially if they have prior theft convictions, may result in enhanced charges. In some limited instances, the store-owners or employees may not bother to get the police involved; however, a majority of large discount retailers (i.e., Sams-Club, Target, Costco, etc.) usually request police involvement with every allegation of theft. Given the possible consequences for a conviction and given the wide range of potential charges, it is especially important to obtain the guidance of an experienced defense attorney for these types of charges. Most attorneys provide free initial consultations. It is worth a few phone calls. You are presumed innocent until proven guilty. I would recommend retaining an experienced criminal defense attorney.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 6/14/2011
    Deal & Hooks, LLC
    Deal & Hooks, LLC | Shawn P. Hooks
    You should contact an attorney promptly. Theft, even of $30 earrings, is a first degree misdemeanor and carries a maximum penalty of $1000 fine and 180 days in jail. An attorney may be able to negotiate a deal for you that would minimize punishment for you, and may even find something that could lead to dismissal. The fact that it is your first offense is helpful to you, but you should not plead guilty or no contest without consulting with an attorney first.
    Answer Applies to: Ohio
    Replied: 6/14/2011
    Goolsby Law Office
    Goolsby Law Office | Richard Goolsby
    I urge you to retain a criminal attorney as soon as possible to go over (and protect) all your rights and options. Good luck!
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 6/14/2011
    Giannini Law Office, PC
    Giannini Law Office, PC | Robert Giannini
    What will happen depends in large part upon the court that you will be going to. Many courts have special programs for first time shoplifters. These programs are sometimes called pre-trial diversion or intervention. Such a program might allow you to earn a dismissal of the charges by doing counseling and/or community service. Some courts (such as Cobb County, Georgia) will not allow a person to utilize the pre-trial diversion program unless they have a lawyer. I think the idea there is that the court does not want you to give up your rights to a trial unless you have been fully advised of all options and their potential consequences. I suggest that you consult with a criminal defense attorney who practices regularly in the court you will be going to. There may be other options as well.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 6/14/2011
    Craig W. Elhart, P.C.
    Craig W. Elhart, P.C. | Craig Elhart
    By issuing you a citation, you were kind of arrested. The citation will require you to appear in court. At the arraignment the court will advise you of the charges, the possible penalties and your rights. The court will also ask how you plead. Retail fraud 3rd is a 93 day misdemeanor but if you have a clean record and this is your first offense, a term of probation with conditions would be a likely sentence. Since I am not aware of the court you will be appearing in, I cannot tell you what the "standard' sentence might be. In addition to the criminal part of the case, the store can charge you a civil penalty. This penalty can be up to 10 times the value of the merchandise stolen but not more than $200. This is a penalty imposed by the store and has nothing to do with the criminal case.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 6/14/2011
    Klisz Law Office, PLLC
    Klisz Law Office, PLLC | Timothy J. Klisz
    In order to protect your future, you need to make sure the offense is kept off your criminal record. A lawyer with experience can accomplish that for you. I handle dozens of these each year in the metro Detroit area. Call me to discuss in detail.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 6/14/2011
    Eric M. Mark, Attorney at Law
    Eric M. Mark, Attorney at Law | Eric Mark
    You should consult with a criminal defense attorney in your state.
    Answer Applies to: New Jersey
    Replied: 6/14/2011
    Rothstein Law PLLC
    Rothstein Law PLLC | Eric Rothstein
    You should hire a lawyer. You were arrested, charged with a crime and given a Desk Appearance Ticket. I am a former federal and State prosecutor and now handle criminal defense so feel free to check out my web site and contact me.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 6/14/2011
    Lowenstein Law Office
    Lowenstein Law Office | Anthony Lowenstein
    You will go through the regular criminal procedure for misdemeanors. For more information, please see my website.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/14/2011
    The Law Office of Kevin O'Grady
    The Law Office of Kevin O'Grady | Kevin O'Grady
    You should seriously consider hiring a defense attorney before you go to court. He will be able to advise you on the process and your options.
    Answer Applies to: Hawaii
    Replied: 6/14/2011
    Law Office of Rankin Johnson IV, LLC
    Law Office of Rankin Johnson IV, LLC | Rankin Johnson IV
    You may be able to do community service in exchange for dismissal. If that's not an option, talk to a lawyer about whether you want to plead guilty or go to trial.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 6/14/2011
    The English Law Firm
    The English Law Firm | Robert English
    The matter is likely a misdemeanor. There is a strong chance that you could get probation on a plea agreement, however, that will create a criminal record for you. You should talk to the prosecutor at your court date to see whether they have any type of first offender diversionary programs. Some courts have these and some do not.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/14/2011
    Austin Legal Services, PLC
    Austin Legal Services, PLC | Jared Austin
    You should plead "not guilty" at your first court appearance or else you will forfeit your right to a pretrial conference which means you could work out a deal with the prosecutor. Usually in a Retail Fraud 3rd degree like this for first time offenders, you will be eligible for a "diversion program." That means if you complete community service and any other conditions of the probation they assign you, the charge will not appear on your permanent public record. If it makes you feel better, speak with an experienced criminal lawyer in the area first and have him review your case. Best of everything.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 6/14/2011
    Law Office of Michael E. Hendrickson
    Law Office of Michael E. Hendrickson | Michael E. Hendrickson
    Get a lawyer, if at all possible, to represent you. If you cannot afford to hire one on your own, then ask the court to appoint one for you.
    Answer Applies to: Virginia
    Replied: 6/14/2011
    Law Office of Jeff Yeh
    Law Office of Jeff Yeh | Jeff Yeh
    First of all, a citation is the same as an arrest. Second of all, paying fines to the store is a civil matter and in no way resolves your criminal case in court. Third of all, it is time for you to hire a lawyer. Petty theft is a crime of moral turpitude, and it will haunt you for years when you seek employment.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/14/2011
    Frances R. Johnson
    Frances R. Johnson | Frances R. Johnson
    In Colorado, theft of an amount less than $500 is punishable (in county court) as a class 2 misdemeanor by probation, from 6 to 18 months in jail, and a fine. This can vary depending upon whether it's the only instance within a certain period of time, or if the value was a smaller amount charged in municipal court. If you call an attorney and give your specific facts, you can get a response tailored to your situation. Only you can decide what decision is best for you once you have enough information (hopefully from an attorney who knows all of the facts of your situation) to make an informed decision.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 6/14/2011
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