you have an option currently. you can pay the fine and also the $225 that is being requested by the lawyers who represent the merchant.
or you can go to court, plead not guilty and see what happens. if you are found not guilty, there is no criminal record. however, there will always be a notation that you were arrested and charged with shoplifting. a conviction may affect a visa
if you don't pay the criminal and civil fines and do not appear in court to plead not guilty, then you could have a warrant for your arrest.
if you do not have good english, you can be assigned an interpreter.
it may be best for you to consult with a criminal defense attorney in your local area to help you to ensure you fully understand everything.
no, it means you have a conviction.
the only way is to be not convicted or if you are convicted then possible expungement after 3 to 5 years. that is where a $400 fee would come in, legal fees to have it expunged.
many times they give an option - pay the $225 as a civil fine and only an arrest is on your record. but if you also have a criminal fine then you need to pay both. to pay the criminal fine is a record. it admits guilt.
as a visa student you really should have a local lawyer evaluate the matter for you to see how you can proceed with your visa and no record.
you need to contact the court or they will send you a court date to your home. you can contact the PA Bar Association for a referral service. perhaps, you qualify for the services of the public defender.
you may have to go to court. here is the information for the PA referral service
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