If I was caught shoplifting for a first offense, should I plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest?

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If I was caught shoplifting for a first offense, should I plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest?

I am 19, the merchandise was only $20 and this is my first offense. I dont want jail time or a criminal record. I have a scheduled first appearance at court where I may be given the opportunity to plea guilty, not guilty, or not contest. Which is best so that I can be on path to a diversion program like a fine and shoplifting class.

Asked on May 30, 2012 under Criminal Law, New Mexico

Answers:

Kevin Bessant / Law Office of Kevin Bessant & Associates

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

Your first court date will be your arraignment in which you will be given the opportunity to plead guilty or not guilty. Most people plead not guilty at the arraignment, except for offenses such as shoplifting where some sort of pre-trial diversion program may be available. Pre-trial diversion typically allows you to participate in a court ordered probationary program in which the criminal charges will be dismissed upon a successful completion of the conditions. A guilty plea and a no contest plea are similar for sentencing purposes, except that you do not verbally admit to the Judge what you stole from the store, but are sentenced accordingly with a no contest plea.


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