What will happen if I was caught stealing $60 worth of merchandise?

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What will happen if I was caught stealing $60 worth of merchandise?

The police were called and I was processed and charged with petit larceny. This is the first time I’ve ever done something like this and it’s also my first criminal offiense; I have no prior record of being arrested. I want to know what am I facing and what can I do? I have no money to pay for a lawyer and nor can I afford it. I am 19 years old. Can there be a settlement for this so it won’t be on my record? I have to go to court next month. I am so apologetic about this and I am dreading having to face jail time or even going to court. I go to school full-time and I really don’t have any money.

Asked on February 9, 2013 under Criminal Law, New York

Answers:

Arkady Bukh / Bukh Law Firm, P.C.

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

This is a small amount of money and you definitely don't want to have a criminal charge on your record for this.  You need to seek legal help and since you say you are indigent or very low income the court can appoint an attorney for you.  Also you can look into the Legal Services, or the bar association in your area for legal help that would be free. 

On these types of charges, you should get a dismissal with no record.  Otherwise you might get an ACD which will be dismissed and sealed in you are not in trouble for 6 months after the hearing.  You should have an attorney for this. 

Another thing with these shoplifting charges is that the stores will try to collect more money from you by letter.  I usually advise that clients ignore these civil collection letters and they will not take them any further.  

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

Since shoplifting is a criminal offense, you should have legal representation in this matter. An experienced defense lawyer might be able to get the charge dismissed on a technicality or at least get it reduced. However, since you are a first-time offender, you will probably be offered "diversion" which is an alternative sentencing program. Accordingly, you will plead guilty to the charge, receive a special probation and upon its successful completion the charge will be withdrawn and your case dismissed. Pursuant to diversion, typically your record is automatically cleared (although is some states you will have to have to take steps to hve your arrest record "expunged").

However, diversion is only allowed for first time offenders. This means that if you get into trouble again, it will not be available to you. That's why if you get an attorney and they get your case dismissed, you will be eligible for diversion if you should need it in the future.

Since money is an issue, if you can't get a PD appointed, check to see if there is a law school nearby to where you live; they typically run free/low cost clinics that handle these type cases. You can also contact the local Bar Association in your county; they may have a list of attorneys who will take your case "pro bono" (for free) or at least for a reduced fee based on your income/circumstances.


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