I was arrested for shoplifting about $22 worth of merchandise. I have never been arrested or charged before. This is my first offense. I do not have a lawyer or PD because I heard from someone at the courthouse that I didn't need one. But I'm so scared and nervous that I don't think I can do it alone but I want to get this over & done with. My court date is actually tomorrow at 4 pm & I had a $500 PR bond. My mom has the $500 & Is taking it to court tomorrow with us. What should I expect when I go in? Like what will the judge do? & if the people from the store doesn't show, will the case be dismissed?? I'm so scared I just need advice right now.
You should consult a local attorney immediately. If it's a first arrest, hopefully the prosecutor will be lenient.
It would be in your best interest to hire an attorney to represent you for your court date. They would be in the best position to advise as to the best path forward in your jurisdiction.
You heard from someone at the courthouse that you didn't need an attorney? If you broke your arm, and someone at the hospital told you that you didn't need medical attention, would you listen?
I know your mom is telling you that this is no big deal, but I do not recommend just accepting the charges and moving on. This can affect you down the line, including getting a job in certain fields. My recommendation is to contact a criminal defense attorney ASAP. If you cannot do that by your hearing but intend to retain an attorney, my recommendation is to attend the hearing and state that you need an attorney, and the judge may continue the hearing to a later date to allow you to retain counsel.
The solicitor (prosecutor) is the one pursuing charges against you, not the store. The victim not showing up or saying, "I don't want to press charges" doesn't mean the charges will be dismissed.
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I think you've answered you own question in that "I just need advice right now." Go get yourself an attorney so you can discuss all of your options and get the right advice from someone that is going to protect your interests. You have virtually no time to do this so I would request a jury trial at the court hearing and that will set the case for another date later on giving you time to talk to an attorney and get he advice you want and need.
You actually should have time to meet with an attorney tomorrow morning and I would encourage you to do so. The hearing can typically be continued by your attorney so that he or she can take some time to evaluate your circumstances and you can make a wise decision. While it is considered a Magistrate level offense--a finding of guilty or a plea of guilty will follow you and may affect your ability to get a job, get scholarship money for school and many other collateral consequences that I cannot mention.
If you do not have time or money to hire an attorney, you may qualify for a public defender. Go to the local courthouse and usually the clerk of courts have an application you can complete to determine if you qualify for a public defender. If you do, you can carry that application to court to show the judge that you intent to get a public defender and that may help your case get continued so that you can meet with the PD. Also, a conviction for shoplifting can be used against you to enhance sentences if you are arrested in the future for property related offenses. If you get 2 shoplifting convictions a third shoplifting charge can carry 10 years in the penitentiary. You must speak with a lawyer immediately.
Finally, you may qualify for Pre-trial intervention (PTI) and an attorney would be essential to see that you are at least screened to see if you qualify. PTI will result in dismissal of the charge and expungement of the arrest if you complete the program.
Best of luck.
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