arrests always stay on your CA criminal record. It is the disposition of the case that you should be worried about. In most jurisdictions if this is your first offense you can usually do a diversion for petty theft which is a misdemeanor if over $50. If under $50 you can have the case reduced to an infraction which is usually only a fine. A diversion will allow you to do a theft class and if you complete it and stay out of trouble the case against you will be dismissed. A dismissal is probably the best your going to get. If it is dismissed your criminal record will show that the case was dismissed. You can then tell private employers you have never been convicted of a crime. Petty theft is priorable so if you ever get another one it can be enhanced to a felony.
Assuming the case is in North County (Vista Courthouse), based on your location, a diversion program is unlikely. The best thing you can do is compile letters in support of your otherwise solid character, document any recent volunteer work you might have performed, and consider voluntarily enrolling in an anti-theft course. Present this information to your attorney and hopefully he/she can work out a disposition that does not result in a permanent misdemeanor theft conviction involving moral turpitude.
The date on the citation is your arraignment date. Assuming the District Attorney files charges against you, you will need to appear in court and enter a not guilty or guilty plea. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided from the SD public defenders office.
-David P. Shapiro
First, the answers you've received so far assume you are guilty and that the prosecution can prove that. There are many techical defenses to a shoplifting charge (even if you did it) and you need to work closely with your lawyer to see if the case can be proven against you. This is very important. (The prosecution must be able to prove the case against you by proof beyond any reasonable doubt, even if you don't testify and remain silent.)
If you can afford a private lawyer, get one now. If not, you'll be assigned a Public Defender when you go to court on the charge. Many Public Defenders are wonderful lawyers. Share everything with your lawyer and see if there is a way to beat the charge. That's the very first issue.