I am located in Massachusetts..I was caught shoplifting under $100. It was my first time and the police did not arrest me. i have to attend court hear

I have to attend a court hearing. I have a clean record so far. I am scared. What is going to happen to me? Is there a way I can just pay a fine? There is no way I can serve jail time and also have it be on my record? Any ideas what might happen when I go to court?

Asked on June 16, 2009 under Estate Planning, Massachusetts


M.S., Member, Connecticut Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Just because you were not placed in handcuffs and taken to the police station does not mean that you were not technically arrested.  If you have to attend court, the police most likely issued you a citation or a summons, which, tecnically, is an arrest. 

Many states have programs available to first time offenders accused of these types of crimes.  When the program is successfully completed (it usually involves some sort of community service or educational classes) the charges are usually dismissed, which means that they come off of your record.  Paying a fine usually means that you have to plead guilty, which would, in fact, result in your having a records.

Despite the potential availability of a program, it is favorable to have the charges dismissed without using the program so that you still have a "first-offender" status available to you if you are ever accused of a similar crime in the future.  Therefore, in the interest of preserving your rights in the future and obtaining the most favorable resolution possible in this instance, i recommend consulting and/or retaining a criminal defense attorney to appear with you at your first court date.

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