Thank you for your question.
It's always a good idea to have a lawyer with you in court, especially in a criminal
matter. The prosecution still has the burden of proving her guilt, and even if she wants to plead guilty, a lawyer may be able to negotiate a plea that minimizes any penalties against her. That said, it's not REQUIRED that she have a lawyer with her when she shows up to her court date.Theft
of merchandise under $300 in Georgia is considered a misdemeanor
, and is punishable by up to one year in jail and/or up to a $1,000 fine. These accused of first-time and low-level crimes like your daughter may be able to take advantage of Georgia's pretrial intervention and diversion programs, which allow for the avoidance of criminal prosecution. If certain court requirements are completed, such as restitution and community service, the criminal charge will be dropped.
If diversion programs are unavailable, she may still be able to negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecutor for reduced charges and sentencing, in exchange for a guilty plea. I would say it's VERY unlikely that she get any jail time, and that any sentence
, even if pleading guilty, would result in probation, which can include a fine, court costs, community service, etc.
There is also a possibility that the store will pursue a civil penalty against her. Under Georgia law, any owner of stolen personal property may bring a civil action for damages against the person that stole the property. Monetary damages in such a case may include:
compensatory damages, including the value of the property and any other loss sustained as a result of the theft;
liquidated exemplary damages in the amount of $150 or twice the value of the loss, if the value of the total claim is less than $5,000, and;
costs of maintaining the action
The civil action may proceed if the following conditions are met:
the property owner provided a demand for payment of his or her losses to the offender at least 30 days prior to filing the civil action
the offender did not pay the amount demanded by the property owner, or otherwise enter into a payment agreement, within 30 days of receiving the demand for payment, and
the property owner did not file the civil action until at least 30 days following the date of service of the written demand for payment on the offender, or after the offender failed to make payment as agreed. (§ 51-10-6.).