If I was just charged with shoplifting, a summary offense, should I plead guilty or obtain a lawyer?

It was my first offense.

Asked on October 17, 2015 under Criminal Law, Pennsylvania

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

A summary offense is the most minor type of criminal offense in your state. It is often referred to as a &ldquonon-traffic citation". A conviction for a summary offense typically results in a fine. If you were under 18 at the time of the offense and are now over 18, you can get it expunged i.e. cleared from your record 6 months after paying your fine if you were over 18 at the time of the offense, you must have a 5 year period in which you were never arrested before you can get an expungement.
That all having been said, even if you are only facing a summary offense and  a penalty that's not too severe, there is still a chance to keep your record completely clear right up front and avoid any future problems that could seriously affect you regarding employment, apartment rentals, scholarships or any time someone might need to do a background check on you.
Additionally, if it ever happens again you will be facing a 2nd offense charge that is a misdemeanor and risk of jail time. The fact is that there are defenses that can be raised for a retail theft charge.
What you can do now is to at least consult with a criminal law attorne y asto your situation. They can best advise you further and you can then decide whether or not to retain their services.


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