Your first hearing will be what is called an arraignment. At that hearing, the judge will advise you of the charge(s) against you and ask you "how do you plead?" You should say, "not guilty". That preserves all of your constitutional rights and allows you to speak with a lawyer about your case who can properly advise you on the best course of action. There are various ways to handle any criminal charge and your lawyer will advise you as to what's best. So that's the answer to one of your questions- yes, you definitely need a lawyer. If you cannot afford one, you are entitled to legal representation and the court will appoint a lawyer to represent you. Whatever you do, do not try and go through this without the help of a lawyer.
After the judge takes your not-guilty plea, you will be given some future court dates. Between your arraignment and those dates, you should be speaking with your lawyer who will then be investigating and negotiating your case.
I agree with Mr. Allen and you need a lawyer if you in the criminal system. Unless you are in the jury box.
Only If and until you and I sign an Agreement for Legal Services, I am not your attorney. These answers are provided for informational and/or novelty purposes
Yes, you should get a lawyer. If you can't afford a lawyer the court will appoint one to represent you. Do not attempt to handle this on your own.
You should talk to your lawyer about doing a "compromise of misdemeanor". That may be an option for you. It allows a defendant to pay back the amount that was stolen in exchange for a dismissal. But I don't advise attempting to do this on your own. There are several possible pitfalls, and you don't want to mess it up.
At the hearing, the Judge will make a finding of probable cause and set release conditions that you will have to abide by while your case is pending. If the judge asks you if you want to enter a plea, you can say "not guilty" or you can ask for additional time to speak to an attorney before entering a plea. Do not try to plead guilty at this hearing.
Do not attempt to discuss your case with the prosecutor. Get an attorney, either by hiring someone or by applying for a public defender, and let your attorney handle it. There are many attorneys in the Spokane area who would be happy to talk to you about your case, and many (including me) offer a free consultation.
Yes, you should get a lawyer. The previous answers I read were good. I'd like to add that the maximum penalty for 3rd degree theft is 1 year and/or $5,000 fine.
If you have no criminal history you are unlikely to get close to the maximum. Generally speaking you would probably only receive a small fine, and could probably get a deferred sentence.
If you can't afford a lawyer, get one from the office of assigned counsel. Call the court clerk's office and ask for the office of assigned counsel or the public defenders office. Tell them you want to apply for an attorney.
Best of luck.