You have been charged with Class C Theft, under $50.00 This is crime involving moral turpitude and can affect you forever. You can pay up to a $500 fine if you just plead guilty and ask for time to pay. This would not be a good idea. You may be offered a deal where you plea gulity , but the court puts you on some sort of deferred adjudication. If you are successful , then the case is dismissed. You should hire an attorney to make sure that your rights are protected and you do not have this mistake follow you forever. You do not have to leave the store to have committed a theft, once you have done an action that forms the intent to appropriate property, the state may have a case against you. There may be some issue with the evidence however, since they did not wait until you left the store. You should speak to an attorney.
You don't have to leave the store to be guilty of theft. But you also don't need to take a conviction. If you can't afford to hire a ticket attorney, just make sure you get a deferred disposition. This will result in a dismissal in your case and allow you to erase it from your record.
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Once you complete the deferred disposition you will be eligible to expunge the charge completely. Make sure you hire an attorney for the expunction as opposed to trying to handle it yourself.
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There can be immigration consequences for this type of crime. If you are not a citizen, consult an immigration attorney.
You should hire an attorney to handle the ticket. Some prosecutors might be willing to just out-right dismiss a case like this under the right circumstances. It is better to have a lawyer working on it than to handle it yourself. And remember that anything you say to a prosecutor can be used against you later. If you start off with an attorney, you should be protected from any mistakes you might make on your own in court.
Some communities are pretty small. Make sure that you haven't posted anything on social networking websites about this issue - you don't want to convict yourself out of your own mouth.
If you get a dismissal or successfully complete a deferred adjudication, immediately get an expunction. This type of crime can affect your chances of getting a job.
And don't do it again - no $20.99 piece of plastic is worth risking your future employment opportunities. There are video cameras literally everywhere - no one is smart enough to get away with this type of crime in this technological era.
The preceding is not intended to be legal advice. Nor does this entry create an attorney-client relationship. No attorney can give unconditional or guaranteed advice concerning a problem without an exhaustive client interview and investigation into the facts of a case. Short questions with only limited factual recitations cannot provide an adequate basis for thorough legal advice. The preceding is only intended to give the questioner a place to start in deciding whether to pursue further legal advice.
Class C Theft is a BIG deal. You will definitely want to hire an attorney. Theft is a "crime of moral turpitude" which is a fancy way of saying it's a crime involving your character. Having a theft conviction on your record will have BIG consequences later in life. It is critical that you take the appropriate steps to keep this off of your criminal record. The worst punishment you can receive is a $500 fine, plus court costs, but don't be fooled - it is worth the time and money to hire competent legal counsel to advise you and work hard to make sure that you are not saddled with the label of "thief," just because you made a bad decision when you were 17.