If I was caught shoplifting, do I need a lawyer to represent me at my court date?

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If I was caught shoplifting, do I need a lawyer to represent me at my court date?

I was ticketed at a store for shoplifting $80 worth of stuff. My court date is Tuesday and this is my first offense. Should I plead not guilty? What should I expect?

Asked on April 30, 2011 under Criminal Law, Florida

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Shoplifting is a criminal offense.  Accordingly 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 leasr get it reduced.  However, since you are a first-time offender, you will probably be offered  "diversion" (or FL's equivalent) which is an alternative sentencing program whereby you will plead guilty to the charge, receive a special probation, and upon its successful completion the charge will be withdrawn and your case will be dismissed.  However, diversion is only allowed for a first offense.  This means that if you get into trouble again, it will not be available for you regarding any subsequent charge(s).  That's why if you get an attorney and the get the your case dismissed, you will be eligible for diversion in the future if you should need it.

Note:  If you are eligible a PD (public defender) may be assigned to your case.  If so, plead "not guilty" at your court date.

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Shoplifting is a criminal offense.  Accordingly 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 leasr get it reduced.  However, since you are a first-time offender, you will probably be offered  "diversion" (or FL's equivalent) which is an alternative sentencing program whereby you will plead guilty to the charge, receive a special probation, and upon its successful completion the charge will be withdrawn and your case will be dismissed.  However, diversion is only allowed for a first offense.  This means that if you get into trouble again, it will not be available for you regarding any subsequent charge(s).  That's why if you get an attorney and the get the your case dismissed, you will be eligible for diversion in the future if you should need it.

Note:  If you are eligible a PD (public defender) may be assigned to your case.  If so, plead "not guilty" at your court date.


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