Whether you get jail time or probation depends on a number of factors that are too numerous to list here. Without prior convictions of any kind, the range of punishment for theft of between $1500 and $20,000 is a fine of up to $10,000 and between six months and two years in a state jail facility. It is a "State Jail Felony", which means you would have a felony on your record for life if you are convicted. In most jurisdictions, probation would not be uncommon with an otherwise clean criminal history.
It is critical that you hire competent, knowledgeable counsel to advise you. A felony charge, and/or a theft charge, has serious consequences that could affect the rest of your life.
Katherine Shipman's response to your question is for general information purposes only. Nothing in this response should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.
You really need an experienced defense attorney. The question is not probation versus jail time. It's probation versus prison time. If you are not guilty, you may need to have a trial. Your attorney will gather the discovery and review it with you, so that you can develop a game plan.
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Ms. Shipman and Ms. Jaggers give excellent answers. And, with no criminal history, you may even have a shot at some kind of diversion program depending on what's available in the county where this is going down. So, get a good criminal defense lawyer and be sure to let him or her know up front that, as you say, you have no criminal record.
Answers on Avvo are for general information purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. No attorney / client relationship is created by providing this answer. For specific advice about your situation, you should consult a competent attorney of your choosing.
As long as restitution is paid I can't imagine a situation where you couldn't work out a plea excluding a felony conviction and/or jail time.
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