First off, it will always be worth the money to hire a lawyer now to represent you, especially if this is your first offense and you have a clean record. This is because an attorney can speak to the DA on your behalf and can talk about things with the DA that you cannot because anything you say to the DA will be used against you. Second, when you go to court, this is a misdemeanor charge and you can be sentenced up to less than a year in jail (6 months in some jurisdictions) and can be fined up to $1000. The charge will stay on your record forever unless you make a deal now or are able to pay more than the $800 the attorney is looking to charge you now for an expungement.
Your attorney should be able to work out a deal, and you need to find one who will fight for this, where you receive a deferred sentence or are placed in a first offender/diversion program, which means you will serve some community service, pay a fine, and remain on unsupervised probation for some time and after that the charge will be automatically expunged and you do not have to report it on any applications about arrest or convictions. The DA will not offer this and will simply look to give you a probation sentence and a small fine for you pleading no contest or guilty, but they will not usually offer up the defferred sentence/expungement unless you have someone to push it for you based upon your past history/record and you really cannot do this yourself because the DA will not be as easy to communicate with you as he would with your attorney.
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As I said above, the prosecutor will not want to engage in any real meaningful negotiation or discussion with you because anything you say to him can and will be used against you. The prosecutor will likely offer you probation/fine/community service, but nothing more. The botXXXXX XXXXXne is that you stole, regardless of your friend putting you up to it, you would still be criminally liable and the fact that you did what your "friend told you to do" would demonstrate to the prosecutor and the judge that you cannot stand up and be counted on to do the right thing and are easily swayed (I not saying this is the case, but that is how it will appear to the prosecutor and the judge). So, likely you will end up pleading based upon the generic deal the prosecutor offers or you will try to go to trial and, based upon what you stated above, you would likely be found guilty and either way would then have a permanent record for the misdemeanor.
Once you have a misdemeanor conviction, you would need to file for an expungement later in life to clear your record and could not do so immediately after the case is over. This will definately require an attorney and the cost for that is much more than the $800 you said it will cost you now. The attorney can go to the DA and even the police and make statements to them and demonstrate the extenuating circumstances without fear that those statements can be used against you. This means that the attorney can aggressively negotiate a better deal for you than you could for yourself because the DA and police can freely talk with him and a back and forth negotiation can take place based upon any extenuating facts or circumstances in your background you want him to plead to get the best sentence. The attorney will likely be able to get the matter handled all at once with the deferred sentence and an automatic expungement meaning you do not have to return to court the case will automatically be cleared from your record without any more costs to you. This is the old addage, "pay now, or pay more later."
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