You are charged with third degree theft with is a GROSS MISDEMEANOR
under Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9A.56.050. This is punishable by up to 1 year in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. This would be at the discretion of the Court if you are found guilty or plead guilty.
First of all, understand how this works. This will be your first hearing and an ARRAIGNMENT, where one pleads GUILTY or NOT GUILTY. If someone in your situation pleads guilty, you may be sentenced or at the very least the case will have been over with you being convicted. Ergo, individuals in your situation generally always want to plead NOT GUILTY and the case will be reset to give you time to find counsel. Actually, most courts do not even GIVE you an option to plead UNTIL you have counsel so the case may be reset to get you to find counsel without you even having an ability to plead yet.
These hearings will reset several times to allow your attorney and the prosecutor (DA) to discuss a plea deal. Normally, the case is reset about 3-4 times before you have to make a choice:
1) plead guilty and simply have the Court sentence you (not recommended);
2) take the matter to trial and risk either being convicted and sentenced, or, acquitted of charges (fairly risky); or
3) make a plea deal with the DA.
About 85% or more of such charges end with a plea deal.
The DA's leverage is that possible certainty that you would be found guilty if he takes this to trial. Your leverage is not only possibility of being found not guilty if taken to trial, but also the pressure exerted unto the DA if the defense pushes for trial, which means man hours, preparation, and a lot of court time. Since the DA often juggles dozens (if not hundreds) of cases at once, they often agree to a plea deal which may include:
-a pleading of guilty for a lesser offense and straight probation
-a deferred sentence, which is an agreement for first-time offenders for non-violent and low-level crimes wherein if you agree to participate in a program, pay a fine, do some community yours, etc, the prosecutor will drop the charges against the you once the program is completed successfully; or
-another type of plea deal favorable to you.
A deferred sentence option is very likely to be offered, so it may not even end up with a conviction.
As stated before, if you do not have an attorney, you may typically ask for a reset to find counsel. If you cannot afford counsel, then you may say that to the Court, and then the Court will question your finances to determine if a court-appointed attorney may be provided.
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