What’s the maximum punishment for theft under $500 for an first offender?

Asked on June 5, 2016 under Criminal Law, Tennessee


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

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

As a practical matter, for a first offense shoplifting charge under $500, jail in all likelihood will not be imposed (unless you resisted arrest). In a situation in which a person has no prior criminal record, the judicial sytem allows for a special probation known as  "diversion" (or sometine deffered adjudication or the like). This is an alternative sentencing tool that allows a defendent to clear their criminal record upon successful completion. First, they go to court and plead guilty to the offense. The court then issues probation which involves either community service, payment of the fine and/or resitution. If the sentence is successfully completed, their plea is withdrawn and their case dismissed. They will be left with a clean criminal history record.
At this point, you should consult directly with a local criminal law attorney. Remember, diversion is only available to first-time offenders. So if your attorney can get the charge dropped on a technicality or the like, then diversion would be available to you in the future should you ever again need it.

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