If I got caught shoplifting an item is under $15 and this is my frist time offense, can I still go to jail?

Asked on July 21, 2015 under Criminal Law, Wisconsin


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

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

No, for such a petty offense jail time does not attach. In a situation in which the defendant has no prior criminal record, the courts allow for a special probation called "deferred adjudication" or"diversion". This is an alternative sentencing tool in which the defendant goes to court and pleads guilty to the offense. The judge then issues a probation to typically include community service, payment of the fine, resitution, etc. If and when the sentence is fully completed, the plea is withdrawn and the case dismissed. The defendant is left with a clean criminal history record since there wa no conviction on the charge.

Note: In some states the defendant must apply to have their arrest record "expunged or selaed (i.e. cleared from their record), even though the conviction itself does not appear on it.

At this point you may want to consult directly with a criminal defense lawyer. Diversion is only available to first-time offenders. If they can get the charge dropped on a technicality, then diversion would be available in the future should you ever need it .

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