What can I do about a petty theft charge if I have no previous criminal record?

My sister and I were shopping. We ended up being stopped my loss prevention and taken to the office. we were charged with petty theft and I have court next month. I have no previous charges on my record and I’m working part-time. I just want to know how I should go about the situation walking inside. I really don’t know what I was thinking at the time.

Asked on August 3, 2015 under Criminal Law, California

Answers:

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

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

In a situation in which the defendant is a first-time offender (i.e. has no prior criminal record), the courts can impose a special probation called "deferred adjudication" or "diversion". Pursuant to this alternative sentencing, the defendant goes to court and enters a guilty plea. The judge then issues probation to include community service, payment of the fine, restitution, etc. When the sentence is successfully completed, the plea is withdrawn and the case is dismissed. the defendant is left with a clean record since there was no conviction.

Note: In some states the defendant must apply to have their arrest record "expunged" or "sealed", even though the conviction itself does not appear on it.

At this point you may want to consult with a local criminal defense lawyer. Diversion is only available to first-time offenders, so ithey can get the charge dropped (e.g. on a technicality), then diversion would be available in the future.


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