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What to expect?

Suwanee, GA |

what to expect when i go to court im 20 and got caught shoplifiting and its my 1st offense and im sorry

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Attorney answers 3


It's good to see these kinds of questions being asked in advance. So often I hear from good people still paying the price years later for pleading guilty to a shoplifting offense without a lawyer or without preparing for their day in Court.

The first question is whether this is a felony or a misdemeanor shoplifting. In GA, for first time offenses, the line is drawn at the $300 mark: less than $300 is a misdemeanor. The other big consideration is where your case is pending. All felonies are going to be in Superior Court, but misdemeanors can be in the Superior, State, Probate or Municipal Courts -- it just depends on what county you're in.

If you have no prior offenses of any kind, often you can get your case dismissed in the lower courts in exchange for completing a Shoplifters Alternative program (a type of education / impulse control class). In the higher courts, dismissals are harder to come by but you can still get alternative sentencing, pretrial diversion or even just First Offender Act plea agreements that can spare you a conviction that will affect you for years into your future. These deals must be reached in advance with the prosecuting attorney. Ninety nine times out of a 100 you can get a deal like that for yourself if you hire an attorney who has a long standing relationship with the prosecutor and/or the judge. I caution you not to go in and try to pull it off by yourself. You might get lucky, or you might be writing a question on this site three years from now trying in vane to figure out how you can "clean your record."


Please follow Mr. Corso's advice, he's right on the money. Let me add my two cents regarding the need to hire an attorney. In some jurisdictions I practice in here in Georgia you must have an attorney to enter into the shoplifting diversion program. Since the completeing the program is a guarenteed win (charges will be dismissed) it's your best alternative and you will want help in getting it.


You need to go to court with an attorney. Depending upon the value of the thing you've taken, you may be charged with felony. Even if this is a misdemeanor, the question isn't so much are you sorry and are you guilty as much as it is "can the government prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt." You need to avoid a conviction, and there may be an alternative to pleading guilty, even if you are guilty. This may cause life-long problems for you if you don't watch out.