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First time offense, should I hire an attorney

Los Angeles, CA |

Hello, I am 20 and was caught shoplifting a week ago and ticketed. Now I'm facing petty theft charges and have to go to court. Should I hire an attorney? Will this go on my record?

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Attorney answers 10


Yes to both of your questions.

As a young person you will still have many opportunities to find employment in the future. This can be made very difficult with a conviction on your record, especially one for theft.

Many people believe it is wise to represent themselves in court, but even if you are very intelligent and can learn the knowledge necessary to defend yourself. This will not replace the experience an attorney has in the courtroom.

There are many defenses applicable to every offense, assessing the situation and deciding the best course of action is something an attorney will offer.

Your goal in court should be to do anything in your power to reach an outcome that keep your record clean. Hiring an attorney who is experienced in this, will make a huge difference in the outcome of your case.


Yes you should hire an attorney and, it will go on your criminal record if you merely plead guilty to a crime. The best course is to contact some attorneys to help you. If you can't afford an attorney, you will be appointed a public defender. But by all means have representation. Theft cases can have lasting consequences.

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My colleagues are correct--yes and yes, if you simply plead guilty. Depending on other factors, you may have some better options. Contact an attorney--many of us on Avvo provide a free consultation.


I agree with allthe attorney's that have answered your question. You should retain a law firm with experience and credentials, near the court this will be heard in. Most attorneys allow for free consultations, so I recommend you speak to a lawyer quickly. I wish you well.......David Wallin


All of these answers are correct.. I would just add that you should talk to the attorney of your choice about DEJ (Diversion) which could and would end up in a dismissal. Depending on the facts of your case, and the county of the offense, you may be eligible. Good luck and get an attorney because you do not want a conviction for theft!


Short answer: Yes, you should sit down with, and eventually hire, an attorney.

Petty theft is a type of crime known as "moral terpitude" (in other words, how honest a person is), and just going in an pleading without discussing the case further would mean the conviction would go on your record and you would likely lose out on many opportunities to find a different resolution to the case. Instead, you would be left with what the judge determined to be the proper sentence.

You could attempt to represent yourself, but that leaves you at a distinct disadvantage when compared to having an attorney. We're in and out of court on a daily basis, tend to know which arguments have better odds of succeeding in a given instance, and even knowing which arguments are available in the first place. While it is possible you may end up with the same result in the end, if you want to give yourself the best chance for success, having an attorney to represent you is a good idea.

Contact an attorney (either one of us from here on AVVO or someone else you find) and sit down with them. Most of us will do a free consultation which gives us a better idea of your case and our ability to help you.

The advice provided in this answer should not be considered legal advice. There are many additional details to be discussed before a complete picture can be obtained and before advice can be given. Contacting an attorney for a confidential consultation should be considered.


Yes, you need to hire an attorney, or ask the court to appoint a public defender if you can not afford to hire an attorney. A theft conviction is priorable, so if you are arrested in the future for a theft, it can be filed as a felony. There are defenses to a theft, which your attorney can explain to you. An attorney can also attempt to negotiate an alternative disposition. If you are not a citizen of the U.S., there are serious implications. You are young and should try to avoid a conviction for theft.


Petty theft is deemed a crime of moral turpitude, for immigration purposes its a deportable offense. Petty theft is a priorable offense, which means it can be used to enhance the charge and or sentence in any subsequent arrest or prosecution. Don't let the term "petty" prevent you from retaining counsel. Also before you consider any type of plea you should ask to read the police report and search for inconsistencies, because believe it or not cops lie. If you are looking for a criminal defense attorney you want someone who believe you and knows that sometimes cops lie.


Arriving to court with a current criminal charge pending against you is a serious matter which requires competent assistance of counsel. When defending a criminal charge a defendant must be advised of all legal defenses (if any) that are available to him. NOT ALL CRIMINAL CHARGES SHOULD RESULT IN A CONVICTION.


Yes. With the assistance of an attorney you may be able to get this charge dismissed off your record through diversion or a conditional plea. This is extremely important as any misdemeanor offense goes on your record and can affect you in many different ways for years to come.

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