Petty theft is considered a pretty minor offense, but it is still theft and still punishable by law. It can be a stain on your record and may cost you further down the line, especially when trying to get a new job.
The first thing to do when charged with petty theft is get an experienced petty theft attorney.
Examples of Petty Theft
Examples of petty theft include shoplifting, bicycle theft, or stealing other "minor" items from a residence when lawfully allowed to be there (otherwise it would be burglary).
Petty theft is classified as theft of an item or items with a total monetary value under the amount of $500. Anything more than $500 is considered grand theft, in which case the charges will be significantly more serious.
First Offense vs. Repeat Offense
While every state has different laws regarding petty theft, they all come close to the same guidelines.
A first offense is always going to be treated more lightly than someone who is a repeat offender, whether it is petty theft or not. A judge is more likely to give the maximum penalty to someone who didn't learn his or her lesson the first time.
First Offense Options
Deferred judgment or diversion has become an option in many states when it comes to petty theft.
If you have never been convicted of petty theft, or a similar crime, and have never participated in a diversion or deferred judgment program, you may be eligible.
Deferred Judgment Program
A diversion or deferred judgment program will have the charges dropped under the stipulation that you do not commit another crime in the course of your determined probation period. While you'll still be responsible for paying court fees and fines, one of these programs will keep the charge of petty theft off your permanent record.
If you qualify for diversion or deferred judgment you will first be responsible to pay all fines and fees required by the court. By entering one of these programs you are also agreeing to waive your constitutional rights to a formal arraignment and a jury trial on the petty theft charges against you.
Most jurisdictions will require you to attend and successfully complete a correction counseling program related to your offense, whether it is shoplifting, etc.
You will also be responsible for making full restitution to the victim in your petty theft case. During the time of your petty theft probation you are not allowed to violate the laws of any city, state, or of the United States.
The judge in your petty theft case has the authority to enter any other conditions he or she deems appropriate to your specific case.
This is where an experienced petty theft attorney comes in handy. Having representation will be the difference of getting off easy or getting the maximum penalty.
An experienced petty theft attorney is well versed in seeking out the least punitive of sentences and helping you put this incident in the past. While going in front of the judge on your own may save you a few dollars now, it will end up costing you in the long run.
If you are interested in learning more about petty theft, please contact us to speak with a qualified and experienced criminal defense attorney who can assess your case to determine how best to protect and maximize your legal interests.
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