Criminal Law Questions? Ask a Criminal Lawyer.
Have you actually been charged?
Sorry, I have an additional follow up. Were you caught with the merchandise? Did you talk to loss prevention or anyone in the store, or the police?
No, that is OK...I just wanted to know what you were looking at here.
So worst case scenario, if this is your first shoplifting offense, it is a Class 3 misdemeanor carrying 1-3 days in jail as a maximum penalty. If convicted, it would also violate your probation, and (again, worst case scenario) could result in a sentence based on the amount of time you are backing up on the probation. If not the worst case jail sentence on the probation violation, it could certainly mess up your ability to switch to unsupervised probation. So your best bet is likely to tackle the ticket itself. If you could somehow get the citation thrown out, then it is unlikely you would violate your probation and the judge would probably still allow you to go to unsupervised probation. I would suggest getting a lawyer or, if you can't afford one, contacting the public defender to see if they can represent you on the new charge. Sometimes, the security guard/witnesses cannot come to court so the charge gets dropped. Or if the prosecutor still wants to go forward, perhaps a lawyer can work out a deal where you do community service in exchange for a dismissal or something like that. It is still possible even with a conviction that the judge may not violate your probation or may still allow you to drop to unsupervised probation, but if you can get rid of the underlying citation then you don't even have to worry really about what the judge will do with the probation.
It is not likely that the court will charge you with violating probation and if you are never charged with the shoplifting. Such a violation is generally charged because the probationer violated the rule that says to obey all laws. In order for them to prove that you violated a law, they would generally just put proof of your conviction into the record. If you are not charged or don't have a conviction, there is no evidence of a conviction for violating the laws so they would have to put on evidence in a hearing that you violated the law.
It is possible to take care of the citation on the first appearance. If you are charged with a probation violation as well, that will probably have to be handled on a different day.
It depends on whether your first appearance is set as an arraignment or an actual trial date. You can usually find out by calling the clerk of court's office with your citation number. If it is an arraignment, no witnesses are required to appear and generally a lawyer can enter a plea on your behalf. Typically with a citation, however, your trial date is the court date you receive and you don't have an arraignment or any other pre-trial proceeding. The witness(es) is/are usually required to appear on a trial date or at least be available to appear quickly if it goes to trial. If they don't show up, the defense usually asks for a dismissal and the prosecution usually tries to get a postponement. That is why it is usually beneficial to have a lawyer, because if the prosecution does try to postpone it, your lawyer can emphatically object based on your work/school schedule. In such an instance if a postponement is denied, then the case is usually dismissed.
As for whether a lawyer can get it thrown out if the above does not happen, it just depends on a lot of variables. It is a very minor charge and prosecutors are usually pretty flexible in resolving these types of cases, since the value of the item stolen is so low. The only hiccup is that because you are already on probation, a prosecutor may not be as willing to cut you a break as someone who was not already on supervision. Still, a lawyer may have some luck persuading a prosecutor to resolve the citation without getting you a conviction.
Any conviction that you get will violate your probation, even if it is a plea to a lesser offense. The judge you are on probation to has a lot of discretion as to what sentence to impose for the violation...the judge can continue your probation, impose any jail time up to the balance of the sentence, give you some jail time and then continue the probation, etc. Once you get a lawyer, a lawyer may be able to try to work out a joint plea that works out the current case as well as the violation of probation, which is more likely if they are both in the same county. With your record, you may not be able to avoid jail time but perhaps a lawyer can work out some kind of deal where you only serve weekends, if your schedule allows for that. Of course, there is still the trial option, but you may want to have the lawyer see what he or she can work out in terms of a plea deal before you decide, so that way you can make an informed decision.