Do I need to talk to a public defender before my first court appearance (arraignment) for a petty theft charge?

Asked over 3 years ago - San Diego, CA

I'm 19. I was caught shoplifting $24. I was arrested in the store and was given a notice to appear in court in a month and a half. It is for PC 488 - petty theft, a misdemeanor. I have researched it and because it is under $50 and it is my first offence, I will likely be able to get it downgraded to a 490.1 infraction. However I am confused about the way this will work. I do not have the money for a private attorney, and would like a public defender. When I appear for arraignment, will there be a public defender provided for me?

Attorney answers (6)

  1. John M. Kaman

    Pro

    Contributor Level 20

    1

    Lawyer agrees

    4

    Answered . I'll go further than Mr. Shapiro and Ms. Foolhardy. You don't need to ask for one at your arraignment; the judge will ask you if you want one. You have to say yes and qualify financially.

    Public Defenders will not advise you until appointed at arraignment.

  2. Judith Michael Fouladi

    Contributor Level 14

    Answered . You'll need to request one at your arraignment. In the alternative, the DA may negotiate the case with your directly and you can certainly ask for the infraction. They may also agree to bust it down to a trespass charge (PC 602 (j)). I prefer a trespass, since it has zero moral turpitude implications. Nice job on the research!

    Judith M. Fouladi, Esq.
    Orange County
    (714) 384-6500

  3. David Philip Shapiro

    Pro

    Contributor Level 18

    Answered . An attorney with the PD's office will be appointed to represent you, assuming you qualify for their services, at your arraignment.

    I wouldn't say it is "likely" your case will be downgraded to an infraction...especially in San Diego. You can, however, do everything you can in the interim to help your case...i.e. gathering letters in support and enroll in an anti-theft course.

    Good Luck!

    David P. Shapiro

  4. Judith Michael Fouladi

    Contributor Level 14

    Answered . Mr. Kaman, based upon a read of a number of your answers on this community service board, you appear to be a knowledgeable and competent attorney. You hardly therefore need debase yourself by engaging in attacks on fellow officers of the court. I do not believe it elevates your stature or that of the legal profession. Best Regards,

    Judith M. Fouladi, Esq.
    Orange County
    (714) 384-6500

  5. Robert Lee Marshall

    Contributor Level 20

    Answered . As the old saying goes, "A person who represents himself in court has a fool for a lawyer."

    I certainly agree with Mr. Kaman that Ms. Fouladi's advice to contact the District Attorney yourself is foolhardy.

    I have seen many people make their situations much worse by talking to the police or prosecution... and very few occasions where they made things better.

    You have a right to remain silent... and the right to a court-appointed attorney if you can't afford to hire your own. Exercise those rights!

  6. Judith Michael Fouladi

    Contributor Level 14

    Answered . You'll need to request one at your arraignment. In the alternative, the DA may negotiate the case with your directly and you can certainly ask for the infraction. They may also agree to bust it down to a trespass charge (PC 602 (j)). I prefer a trespass, since it has zero moral turpitude implications. Nice job on the research!

    Judith M. Fouladi, Esq.
    Orange County
    (714) 384-6500

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