If I was charged with shoplifting and it is my first offense, will I spend time in jail?

I was charged with shoplifting for the amount of $20, and this is my first offense. I plead not guilty because I had accidentally put the merchandise in my purse, and although I offered to pay for the undamaged merchandise, both the cop and the employees would not let me pay. I am a college student and would like to do anything including community service, paying any fees, taking any classes, and/or a probation period so that this may be eventually expunged from my record. I am unemployed but do not quality for a public defender. Would it be wise to represent myself pro se?

Asked on May 24, 2012 under Criminal Law, New Mexico


Kevin Bessant / Law Office of Kevin Bessant & Associates

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

In most cases, for first time offenders of a shoplifting offense, the courts will either provide a pre-trial diversion program or a deferred sentence which will allow you to keep a clean criminal record upon a successful completion of any court ordered conditions or probation. While jail time can be imposed if the Judge so orders, it is rarely done for first time retail fraud offenders. Because you do not qualify for a public defender, I never recommend handling a criminal matter without the expertise of a criminal defense attorney to help guide you and handle your case to achieve the best possible outcome for you. You can not afford to have this conviction on your record because it is a conviction for fraud. Speak to a few attorney's in your area, explain to them that you are a student with little money, and see if they will be willing to reduce their rates for you.

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