Written by attorney William Mathew Concidine

Shoplifting (Petty Theft) Case in San Diego County

Consequences of a Petty Theft

A shoplifting citation is often the first contact a person has with law enforcement. You were in a store and you have now been accused of taking an item from the store without paying for it. Now what si going to happen to you? You may have many questions that need to be answered:

What is the possible consequences of a petty theft in San Diego County?

-Under the law, you could get up to 6 months in jail. However, for a first shoplifting offense in San Diego county you are looking at a misdemeanor conviction on your record, three years of informal probation, a fine of apporximately $635, one day of custody which involves going to a local jail for a booking and release procedure, a shoplifting course, and you will be ordered to stay away from the location of the shoplifting (stay away order).

For a second offense, you are looking at the same conditions of a misdemeanor on your record, probation, $635 fine, stay away order, and the court will impose 10 days of public work service which is where you must pick up trash on the side of the road or work at a dump, or some other public service no one else wants to do.

With a fourth petty theft offense, the prosecution can charge it as a felony offense.

Will I have to go to court for my shoplifting case?

-Yes. The officer provided you with a citation that contains your court date. You will have to report to the assigned court on the date given for your arraignment. That is your first court date where you decide whether you will pled not guilty or guilty.

Can I avoid going to court?

-Yes. For misdemeanor offenses, such as shoplifting, if you hire an attorney, the attorney can attend the court hearings on your behalf. You would never need to go in to a courtroom unless you decide to take your case to trial.

Do I need to hire an attorney for my petty theft or shoplifting case?

-It depends on what you want to do with your case. If you simply want to pled guilty to a petty theft and have it on your record then you can handle that on your own. However, I strongly recommend you contact an attorney who handles shoplifting cases to discuss all your options. You may want to contact a shoplfting lawyer who will work to mitigate the consequences of the petty theft offense right from the start.

You and your attorney should develop a specific plan that is designed to convince the prosecution to either reduce the charge to an petty theft infraction--which is important for your record, and/or work on ways to try to get the prosecution to dismiss the case. This may require more than one court hearing and possibly a negotiation with the prosecutor. It may also include doing some community service and a shoplifting course.

In addition, if you are not a citizen of the United States, a petty theft and shoplifting charge can have serious consequences to your immigration status. It is important to contact an attorney who has experience dealing with shoplifting and immigration consequences. I work closely with several immigration attorneys to ensure that the criminal case for shoplfting does not interfere or cause immigration problems.

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