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I got caught shoplifting $220.30, this is my first citation, what should I do?

San Diego, CA |

I'm 19 and I got caught shoplifting with my friend who is also 19 at a Micheal's craft store. She took $8 worth of stuff, and I had taken $220.30 (some of the stuff were hers, but I didn't say anything). The cops were called, and since our record was clean we received a citation for a misdemeanor "petty theft." I was told to appear in court sometime before July. I don't have money to hire a good attorney. What should I do? What will happen when I go to court? Should I pay the fee from Micheals ? Is it possible to get off easy seeing this is my first offense? If so, how would I do that? Will this affect me getting a job? Thank you for all your help in advance !

How do I get it dismiss to a civil compromise? What is my best bet ?

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Attorney answers 7


Go to the arraignment and ask for the public defender to represent you. You have a possibility of having the charges reduced to an infraction or even dismissed in what is called a civil compromise. The fee from Michaels is separate from the criminal case, but if you ignore it, they can send you to a collection agency. It may affect your ability to get a job with a misdemeanor theft on your record, which is why you want to fight the charges.

John M. Kaman

John M. Kaman


An unliquidated debt or claim cannot be sent to a collection agency. Furthermore paying the demand means you will be placed on the National Retailers Theft Database which is just as bad as having criminal record.


Any theft conviction will have a negative impact on your ability to find a job. You should hire an attorney to guide you. If you can't afford one ask for the public defender at your first appearance. Do not pay Michael's anything. They can legally ask you to pay them for their trouble but you are not obliged to do so. Not paying will have no affect on your criminal case.


Based on it being a first offense, you may be able to avoid any serious trouble. Like Mr. Kaman said, you don't have to pay Michael's anything. Use that money for a lawyer instead.


Nicholas M. Loncar, Esq.
t. 323.803.4352 | f. 323.617.3838
Sunset Law Building | 1295 W. Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA | 90026


Hire an attorney, don't pay Michaels


I agree with what most have said. Depending on which court your case is in could also have an impact on what sort of deal you can make to resolve your case. Each court handles these cases a little differently. There are things you can get started on now that could help you once you get in to court. It is best to speak with an attorney familiar with the differences in each court and they could also give you a head start on trying to put yourself in the best possible position when you appear at court.


Sounds like you haven't yet engaged the services of a qualified criminal defense attorney. You might be surprised that you can find a quality criminal defense attorney here in San Diego for a reasonable fee.
Worse yet, it sounds like you're hoping to get a quick legal education so you can represent yourself. What you are really doing is making a tremendous mistake, the negative consequences from which you will suffer for a very long time. You can save some bucks now by not hiring a competent private local criminal defense attorney-no question about that. However, you will see many many times that amount in lost wages, (when you can't find someone willing to hire you), and lost opportunities for education, which in turn will substantially reduce your earning capacity for a lifetime. Pay now for a quality criminal defense attorney, or pay, pay, pay later. Most local attorneys here on Avvo offer a free consultation. You should follow up and hire the Attorney that you are most comfortable and confident in to help you successfully resolve this matter.

I will be happy to speak with you at no cost with a FREE phone consultation if you have a San Diego or California matter. Please call my office at 619-238-1905 or visit my website at


Stop stealing, stop admitting guilt on public forums such as, and start saving up for a good, locally experienced, criminal defense attorney who can make proactive use of the time between now and your first court date.

Otherwise show up in court on the date on the citation and ask the court to appoint you an attorney from the public defender's office.

Law Offices of David Shapiro 3555 4th Avenue San Diego, CA 92103 (619) 295-3555

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