What many people don't seem to realize in a shoplifting case is that the store can come at you two ways, civilly and criminally. The store does not have to choose between two ways of proceeding. They are entitled to get damages in the form of fines to help defray the cost of their insurance, their loss prevention departments and their in-house security system. For that reason, a $30 theft
can prove expensive, and the law will uphold it to the limit of the law. See Iowa Code 645
But once the police get involved and turn the matter over to the prosecutor, the state may want to prosecute to punish the wrongdoer, as they did here. The penalty for the crime always depends on the value of the property stolen. You can read the statute and the penalty here
YOur daughter's maximum risk would be a year in jail and a criminal record
. But the jail is only likely on a first arrest if she takes the case all the way to trial
and then loses. The standard plea offer involves probation, and so of more concern would be making sure she didn't end up with a criminal record. Employers run like mad from theft offenses, even misdemeanors
There are special forms of probation available that can allow her to walk away without a criminal record. If she can get a diversion option or a deferred adjudication, she would plead guilty, pay fines, do community service, attend anti-theft classes, serve out her term of probation and comply with any other conditions imposed and, if successful, her sentence
would be dismissed at the end of it.
This may be something she could negotiate for herself, but many prosecutors will not discuss cases with an unrepresented defendant. They want to work with a lawyer. For that reason and because criminal
cases can have lifetime consequences and she should be fully advised if she's going to make decisions at 19 that will affect her future, yes, she should have a lawyer with her on her first date in court. If you are unable to afford one, she should plead not guilty and ask the court for a public defender.
This should work out just fine for her, but since criminal matters never go without a hiccup of some sort, I'd be prepared for it by retaining counsel.