What happens when you are caught shoplifting?

UPDATED: Jul 16, 2010

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What happens when you are caught shoplifting?

Yesterday I got caught stealing at a Target and since I obviously didn’t think I’d get caught I took a lot of stupid things that amounted to $180. They called the police and they asked me about it and took me to the station but because I talked to the cop on the way I think he might have felt bad for me or something because he never took me in the station. He wrote me a ticket with a court date which is in October but I want to know what to expect. Will I get a fine? What else? Do I ask for a public defender? I’m not a resident so what happens?

Asked on July 16, 2010 under Criminal Law, California


M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

Technically shoplifting is called "Petty Theft" under the law.  Generally it is charged as a misdemeanor if it is a first offense, and the value of the property stolen is valued between $50 and $400. Petty theft can be punishable by a fine of up to $400 or by imprisonment in County jail for up to 6 months, or both.  If you can not afford to have an attorney represent you then go and see if you qualify for legal aid.  You did not mention how old you are.  Are you a teenager?  Or a juvenile offender as they are termed under the law?  Then you may be charged with only an infraction and not receive a criminal record.  You definitely need legal help here.  Good luck.

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