Chances of jail time for first offense petty theft?

Asked over 2 years ago - Palm City, FL

I was arrested for petty larceny ($120 dress) and my arraignment date is in two weeks. This is my first time stealing anything and I do not know what I was thinking when I did it. I am 32 years old and I should know better. I am a nervous wreck because the public defender can't meet me until my arraignment and I don't know what to do. What are the chances I'll get jail time? I can't eat or sleep thinking about this. Do I plead guilty or not guilty even though I am in fact, guilty? And if I do get sentenced to jail, do they take me away right there or do I have some time before I go? I have two children at home and all I picture is me not coming home to them. I am so dumb for doing this.

Attorney answers (5)

  1. 10

    Lawyers agree


    Answered . I have practiced criminal law for the past fifteen years and I have yet to see a first-time offender go to jail on a Petit Theft plea. That said, it is neither impossible nor unlawful to sentence someone to jail on such an offense, so while I seriously doubt that you'll see the inside of a jail cell, I would encourage you to consider other ramifications from your case. Petit Theft is considered a crime of dishonesty and having such a charge on your criminal background could jeopardize your ability to work in certain fields and secure certain licenses. I recommend you ask your lawyer for Pre Trial Diversion (sometimes referred to as Pre Trial Intervention or deferred prosecution). If you qualify, and you should, this would allow you to earn a dismissal of the charge so that you can petition the court to have it deleted from your record. If you succeed in getting your case dismissed, visit our site at for information on expunging your record.

    Posting an answer to your question does not create an attorney / client relationship such that you can or should... more
  2. 8

    Lawyers agree


    Answered . An arraignment is simply an opportunity for you to be advised what you have been charged with. You can enter a plea of Guilty, Not Guilty or No Contest. If you have an attorney, a Not Guilty plea is typically entered initially so that your attorney has the opportunity to investigate your charge(s). Your attorney will request a copy of the discovery documents and review them to determine whether you have any defenses and/or motions. If this is your first offense, you may be eligible for a diversion program. Upon successful completion of a diversion program, the charges may be dismissed. You should be given the opportunity to talk to your attorney prior to making any decisions, even if your first opportunity to do so is in court. If you have the ability to hire an attorney, do so now. He or she can explain the process to you before court.

    This answer does not, nor is it intended to, create an attorney-client relationship or constitute attorney... more
  3. 8

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . Your question poses several issues.

    First and foremost, you could be sentenced to time in jail. It is impossible to say what exactly the chances of you going to jail are. It really depends on a whole host of factors.

    Secondly, I strongly recommend you consult a criminal defense attorney in your area to calm your nerves. Additionally, a private criminal defense attorney will address many of the other issues raised in your questions like whether to plead guilty or not, potential sentences, etc. They will also determine whether you are available for any pretrial intervention programs, if they are available in your jurisdiction.

    Good luck with your situation and you really need to consult with a criminal defense attorney immediately.

    This answer does not, nor is it intended to, create an attorney-client relationship or constitute attorney... more
  4. 8

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . Relax. If you have no criminal history, you will likely not be facing jail time. A plea of not guilty is often entered to allow a defendant time to get discovery, talk to witnesses, etc. It has little bearing on the overall issue of guilt or innocence.
    I would still suggest consulting with a local attorney to make sure that your rights are protected.

    Good Luck!!

  5. 1

    Lawyer agrees

    Answered . I work in this jurisdiction and can tell you the chance of jail is pretty slim. As a side note, I would not admit to guilt in online posts, they can be used against you!

Related Topics

Criminal defense

Criminal law establishes the classifications of crimes, how guilt or innocence is determined, and the types of punishment or rehabilitation that may be imposed.

Criminal charges

Criminal charges are formal accusations in court that someone has committed a crime. Criminal charges have many classifications and degrees of severity.

Daniel P. Hilf

Driving While License Suspended

Driving While License Suspended or Revoked in Michigan is a misdemeanor offense (according to MCL 257.904(3)(a)) that carries a maximum potential jail sentence of up to 93 days, and/or a... more

Can't find what you're looking for? Ask a Lawyer

Get free answers from experienced attorneys.


Ask now

35,289 answers this week

3,781 attorneys answering

Ask a Lawyer

Get answers from top-rated lawyers.

  • It's FREE
  • It's easy
  • It's anonymous

35,289 answers this week

3,781 attorneys answering