My daughter was visiting family for thanksgiving and her and her cousins went to Walmart and was caught shoplifting? My daughter and my niece went to jail and this is their very first time ever being in jail or getting into trouble. The stuff they took was less then $80. They have court Dec 10th I can’t be there with my daughter because I live in Hawaii. I know they are both very scared and don’t have much money her being only 21 and my niece being 18 and still in high school. Are they looking at jail time and how much is this gonna cost? We can’t afford an attorney and not sure what to do. Not sure how it works with people who live out of state. Are they gonna have to make multiple trips to Tennessee for court ?
They'll have to appear in Tennessee for the court date or risk a failure to appear warrant being issued. They should be eligible for the public defender if they cannot afford counsel. They should contact the public defender in the county in which they have been charged ASAP.
Licensed in TENNESSEE AND MARYLAND. This is not legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship. This is for education and informational purposes only. It is always recommended that you contact an attorney with any concerns as each individual case is unique.
At this point I am assuming that your daughter and niece already had their arraignment on December 10th. I hope your daughter and niece have either applied for court-appointed counsel or have retained counsel. Your daughter and niece can appear in Tennessee for court once to plead guilty to the offense if that is what they want to do, but if they are willing to come to Tennessee for a few court dates then it is likely that their attorney can help them get a more favorable outcome in the case. Sometimes it takes a little bit more time to look through the evidence and negotiate with the prosecutor assigned to their case to resolve the case favorably.
As far as whether or not they are looking at jail time, the answer is likely no. Theft of property under $500 is a Class A Misdemeanor in Tennessee, which means that theoretically they are both looking at a potential maximum sentence of 11 months and 29 days. However, based on this being both of their first offenses, the case can most likely be worked out between their lawyers and the prosecutor assigned to their case. They may plead guilty to the theft, pay Walmart back the $80 and be placed on probation. They can potentially plead to a lesser offense such as attempted theft as well.
Another possibility is that your daughter and niece can potentially plead guilty and use something known as a "diversion." A diversion is essentially a one time only get out of jail free card. In sum, your daughter and niece would plead guilty to the theft and be placed on probation for 11 months and 29 days. However, the judge will keep the plea in their files during the 11 months and 29 days without actually finding them guilty on the record. If your daughter and neice were to successfully complete their diversion, by not picking up any new charges, then their cases would be dismissed and be immediately eligible for expungement from their records. Your daughter and niece should discuss the benefits of each of these potential options, among a few others.
I hope that this helps to ease some of the anxiety that your daughter and niece, as well as your family, might be going through from these charges. I wish them the best of luck and hope that their case is resolved favorably!
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