The ticket I got back in August said petty theft, when I went to the court date I didn’t see a judge they had given me another date to go but this time it said shoplifting. Is there a difference in charges? Since this is my first offense do you think I could be facing jail time?
Petty theft is a misdemeanor that is punishable by a maximum of three years probation, up to six months in jail and a maximum fine of $1000 under Penal Code section 484. It is the same as "shoplifting." I have in 45 years of criminal practice never seen someone with no record get jail time for a first time petty theft.
There are typically many ways to defend against petty theft charges. If an individual has no prior criminal record, a prosecutor may agree to allow that person to complete a diversion program instead of a conviction. Additionally, many times the stores involved will agree to a civil compromise in which they are fully compensated for the theft and the resources they expended in investigating it.
Nonetheless, this is not a DIY project. You need a lawyer.
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