Not all courts have a diversion program and the ones that do control the requirements for acceptance into that program. If this is your first ever offense I suggest you contact the public defender's office and discuss your case with them. If you are in a court that requires you to plead not guilty first then I would suggest you show up to arraignment and see if you are offered a diversion program and if so you can make that decision at that time. Otherwise you should plead not guilty and request an attorney.
Attorney Chris Beck
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In order to make a free and voluntary decision upon an educated legal advice by a local criminal counsel on" the need to know whether I should just plea guilty and then see if there is an option for diversion", you must discussing the plea with either a Public Defender assigned to your case upon request if you are truly indigent or a criminal law attorney in Ohio.
It is unlikely you will "go to jail" as a first time offender for a petty theft from Khol's, yet, there is a very strong change of messing up your entire employability and educational future with a reckless plea. Do not plead to anything without a counsel's advice ever.
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As attorneys we never advise that you 'just plea guilty'. In many circumstances judges won't even allow you to do so without at least appointing an attorney. Typically you need to negotiate to get a diversion program and in my experience in Michigan if you just plea without a conference of some sort you will waive your right to get a better deal down the road. Hire an attorney or at least have one appointed. My theme on these threads is pay now or pay later. This is a theft offense, a crime of dishonesty, that you can probably resolve in a manageable way with a lawyer. Do what you can to avoid this following you around for the rest of your days. The small investment now is worth it. I agree with what other counsel has posted on this thread. Good luck.