I was caught shoplifting at a department store, worth about $1500. The cops were called, but because I have a nursing child they were nice enough and chose not to arrest me and let me go home with a court date in a month. I was cooperative the entire time, and this is my first offense in my life for anything. I'm a 22 year old single mother living at home with my parents and still in school. I plan to get a public defender. What are the chances I will avoid jail time and can later make this not seem so bad on my record?
Domestic Violence Lawyer
A theft in excess of $950 is considered grand theft under California Law which an be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. Alameda County is a strict county when it comes to theft offenses. Although, it is very likely that you will avoid jail time, you will suffer a theft related conviction. Employers do not like to hire individuals with theft offenses on their record. It is important to have good representation to make sure that you obtain the best possible result. Hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to represent you or at least consult with a few. A lot of criminal defense attorneys offer free consultations.
This answer does not constitute legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.
I would be surprised if you were sent to prison (CDCR). If you avoid state prison and complete all requirements of probation as required, you may be able to file a 1203.4 Motion with the court. This would likely be a few years down the road, not months. This 1203.4 motion is a legal fiction which allows you to claim you don't have the conviction to most employers and apartment applications. Hopefully the judge will grant it to you.
You can't actually expunge a record in California (unless you prove actual factual innocence after trial) - that's a very different matter.
(you still have to reveal the conviction/guilty plea for, among other areas: law enforcement job applications, certain state professional licenses, state lottery department jobs and some jobs involving sensitive national security matters.)
Back in the days before quick internet background checks, a 1203.4 Motion could be a Godsend for getting a job since employers often didn't actually check records. Today they can still see the record because the 1203.4 Motion DOES NOT erase the actual court record or arrest record. Again, it is a legal fiction where the judge "Sets aside" the conviction allowing you to claim you don't have it in most (but not all) circumstances. Good luck with your case.
A Governor's pardon would be even better than a 1203.4.
My advice is directed at California cases since that is where I am licensed; otherwise all advice is to be taken only as an answer to a hypothetical California matter. Advice given here does not create an attorney-client relationship. My comments should not be considered a replacement for brining more detailed facts about your issue to a lawyer who practices in the area of law in question.
Criminal Defense Attorney
I think you will avoid jail time, but that may be small consolation for the lifetime of scars this type of criminal conviction may have in consequences for your employment. I would hire a private attorney who regularly appears in the local court who can explore a pre-trial diversion program, a motion for civil compromise, a plea to trespassing, a plea to disturbing the peace - anything to prevent a conviction for a crime of dishonesty.
You may want to take an online shoplifting prevention course at the National Association of Shoplifting Prevention or Tom Wilson Counseling center and then bring in the completion certificate so your attorney can use that in negotiating a better plea bargain.
Educate yourself about the possible defenses - was your child unruly at the time you had to pay for the items and you were distracted? That could be a defense if some in store videos corroborate your claim.
Click on the link below to read more about shoplifting and its defenses and good luck.
Debt Collection Attorney
Your best bet I think on that amount of product being stolen is to see if they will allow a plea to an other than theft charge. However, I think you are likely looking at a theft conviction if no defenses exist.
Perhaps they will agree to reduce the felony to a misdemeanor. When is your initial hearing date?