How JustAnswer Works:
  • Ask an Expert
    Experts are full of valuable knowledge and are ready to help with any question. Credentials confirmed by a Fortune 500 verification firm.
  • Get a Professional Answer
    Via email, text message, or notification as you wait on our site. Ask follow up questions if you need to.
  • 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
    Rate the answer you receive.
Ask Nate Your Own Question
Nate, Lawyer
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 10686
Experience:  Over 10 years of criminal defense practice.
Type Your Criminal Law Question Here...
Nate is online now
A new question is answered every 9 seconds

This week I suffered a serious lack of judgment and attempted

This answer was rated:

This week I suffered a serious lack of judgment and attempted to shoplift about $40 worth of merchandise from a craft store. I am getting married in less than 4 weeks, but there is so much unique stress and pressure on myself, my current job situation, my long distance relationship with my fiancé, my family, and my finances-- I was feeling helpless and I made a very stupid move. I have no prior criminal record, and have never been in trouble beyond a few speeding tickets (due to the many hours of the road to see my fiancé over the last 4 years). I have a court date set for a week from today, and I have a few questions about what is happening, and what to do.

1) What is the court in session to determine? Is it my sentencing? The officer at the scene said I was going to court to "tell the judge why I did it". The officer asked me the same question, but I was so shaken I could hardly squeak out an answer. I can tell the judge my poor thought process that lead to my actions, but I don't want to sound like I'm making excuses. There are 3 main issues that have been plaguing me, the pressure finally was crushing me and I lost my sound reasoning in that moment. Should I attempt to explain these issues to the judge? I'll explain in more detail here, if it would be helpful.

2) Will my employer be notified of the charges? I can't find anything specific for the state of Iowa. The reason I don't live near my fiancé is because I'm working very hard to create a good career, and this is the best job I could get in Iowa, with a possibly future in the same city as my fiancé. I know my performance has been lacking as the wedding draws near. My employer and I have disused a refocus being made on both of our parts after the wedding, but I shutter to think what my employer would think / do if they knew what I did.

3) What can I do to improve my situation? I was reading about an Iowa Online Petty Theft class. It says taking the class before my court date can show the judge I am taking the charges seriously. I, of course, don't want to go to jail, and I'd like to minimize the monetary changes as much as possible, since being broke is one of the reasons that lead to my actions. That also makes if difficult for me to be able to hire a lawyer... Is there anything else I can do to help myself besides this class, and being very respectful and apologetic for my crime in court? (Also,this class is $70, so I would like to know if it would help me at all to spend the money). Are there any lawyers that would defend me for la minimal fee?

Those are my big questions right now.... I really appreciate any information! I'm so out of sorts with the wedding in a few weeks and now I've put myself in this position. Im so embarrassed and ashamed, I don't know who else to talk to. Thank you in advance for your help!
My name isXXXXX have been a licensed attorney for over ten years and will be assisting you today.

First, you mentioned you were under financial strain. You may qualify for an appointed lawyer. How much do you estimate your annual income to be?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

My salary is $41,000/year. I doubt that is low enough for an appointed lawyer. My strain comes from a large amount of student debt (over $500/month), high housing cost living in a college town with a lot of Chicago native students (I was paying $1,000 for a studio apt this summer), and being on the road 8 to 20 hours a week (depending on how often I visit my fiance) and paying for gas. When I take home about 2K a month, not much is left after expenses and bills.


I've been out of school for 2 years, so what little I had saved has been depleted for the wedding. I'm receiving no financial aid from my family, it's all on us. This is getting into the 'reasoning' for my actions . . .

I see. You are correct that you would not qualify for an appointed attorney.

As to your numbered questions:

1) and 3) The first court date is the date where you either work out a deal or plead not guilty and get a second "trial date". Most of your dealing will be with the district attorney rather than the judge.

That said, as you have no record and this is first time incident, in most cases you will be allowed to either complete a class or do community service in order to have the charge dismissed, or else work out a plea deal that will allow it to be eventually expunged.

The class sounds like a good idea. Consider it what you spend instead of hiring an attorney. If you show up having already done the class, you may be in a position to get it dismissed at the court date.

2) There is no automatic notification of anyone. The only way anyone finds out is if they do a background check on you in the county where you have been charged. There is no other way your employer would be notified.

If you have more questions please feel free to ask. I'll be happy to answer them. If you do not, please do remember to rate my service in assistance to you today.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thank you very much for the information.

Could you tell me more about the difference between completing a course or community service to have the charges dismissed, and working a plea deal that could eventually be expunged? I guess I'm wondering what those solutions mean for my record.

What would the dismissed charges mean on my record? Would they still appear? What does that tell someone looking at my record? That I was initially charged, but it was dropped?

How about the plea deal. I'm not sure what that means. I plead guilty, but could eventually look into having it removed?

Is one outcome more in my favor than the other?

I will absolutely complete the class this week. Could you estimate the number of hours of community service I could be given to complete?


Thank you again!

All things such as community service depend on what you negotiate at court. Make sure whatever you agree to do will result in a dismissal or expungement. It's worth just keeping the case going to make time to hire an attorney because you never, ever want a theft permanently on your record.

If it ends up dismissed, you can expunge it. It would be as if it never happened and no one has to know.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Yes, I do understand that . . .

Could you explain to me what the plea deal could result in? I'm not sure what that means. I am pleading guilty and hoping to have it expunged in the future?

What about a deferred judgement? My understanding is that sentencing would be held while I complete a probation period. After that, the charges could be dismissed, if the probation is satisfied. Is that correct? Is that something I should peruse?

I guess I'm wondering what to say or do to aid myself, beyond completing the online course...

A plea agreement is just agreeing to a way to resolve the case against you. There are no hard and fast rules about how they are to be done and what is required in each case.

Deferred judgment would be a good thing. The only thing you do NOT want to do is just plead guilty. Then it stays on your record.

You have two positive outcomes, 1) get an agreement for a deferred judgment, or 2) get an agreement to have the case dismissed after doing a class, community service, or whatever other requirements they may want you to do.

If those two are not made available, I think in this situation you'd do better to get a new court date until you can hire an attorney to represent you. You don't want to do something you are unsure of and end up with this permanently on your record.

At your next court date
Nate and 7 other Criminal Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thank you very much the information. I will definitely be utilizing this next week, and hoping for the best.

Thank you again.

You are welcome. Good luck!

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Good morning Nate,


I do have one more question. I am going to court this afternoon, and wondering if they will ask me to plead guilty or innocent? Yoy said that the only thing I don't want to do is just plead guilty. However, I don't want to lie and say I didn't do it. I want to be up front about the forgiveness, penance, and education I have sought since my incident. Is there a way to present this information along with what I have learned and my apology while still seeking a DJ or dismissal?


Thank you.

You plead not guilty. As I mentioned before, there are two outcomes you want

You have two positive outcomes, 1) get an agreement for a deferred judgment, or 2) get an agreement to have the case dismissed after doing a class, community service, or whatever other requirements they may want you to do.

Based on your continued questions, I would suggest you retain a lawyer for any future court dates. You don't want to do something and not fully understand the consequences until it is too late.