What level of theft? Are you in JP/municipal court, county court, or district court? If either of the latter two, the judge will presume your plea is not guilty and reset your case to hire a lawyer if you don't show up with one. If the former, then you should still plead not guilty and ask for a trial date. The issues you raise are becoming more documented but they are still fairly complex and you will definitely need a lawyer to be able to properly present them. A conviction or probation for theft could have real consequences later in your life.
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A very easy approach:
DO NOT ever plead to anything, do not do anything, do not proceed in any criminal case without first discussing your legal options and ramifications of your plea with a licensed professional representing your legal interests.
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Contact a local criminal law attorney immediately
This is not intended to be legal advise or as legal representation. I am a California personal injury attorney . Be aware that every state has its own statute of limitations; and statutes & case laws that govern the handling of these matters.