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 Zoey_ JD Your Own Question
Zoey_ JD
Zoey_ JD, JustAnswer Criminal Law Mentor
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 27044
Experience:  Admitted to NYS Criminal defense bar in 1989. Extensive arraignment, hearing, trial experience.
Type Your Criminal Law Question Here...
Zoey_ JD is online now
A new question is answered every 9 seconds

I was caught stealing earrings and have been charged with

Customer Question

I was caught stealing earrings and have been charged with retail theft. I have a clean background, this is the first time I've ever had anything on my record.
JA: In what state did this occur?
Customer: Utah
JA: Have you talked to a laywer yet?
Customer: No, I haven't
JA: Anything else you want the lawyer to know before I connect you?
Customer: No
Submitted: 11 months ago.
Category: Criminal Law
Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 11 months ago.


I'm Zoey and I'll be assisting you. I'm reviewing your question now. Are you online at this time?

Customer: replied 11 months ago.
I am
Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 11 months ago.

How much were the earrings worth? Was the matter turned over to the police, or did you only deal with loss prevention? Do you have a court date?

Customer: replied 11 months ago.
$14.95, and the police did come. I don't have a court date. I was told to wait 5 days before I call
Customer: replied 11 months ago.
I've had a clean record until now. I have no idea what to do
Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 11 months ago.

Thank you. This is what I needed to know. Please give me a few minutes to type up a response t you.

Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 11 months ago.

Typically on a first low-level shoplifting offense, a person without a record would be offered a diversion type of disposition. That's a special form of supervision during which the defendant would have to stay out of trouble, perform community service, pay fines and take anti-shoplifting classes. If he or she performs all of that successfully, the case gets dismissed and so the conviction will be removed from his criminal record. Or the case could be reduced to a civil infraction. Although you'd be eligible for something like that, it may have to be negotiated for you.

If you don't want to take any kind of plea disposition, you could fight the case, all the way to trial, if necessary. If convicted after trial, however, you'd have a misdemeanor on your record which could hamper you personally and professionally. And you'd face at least some jail time, because you'd have been proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

So the best thing you can do for yourself, no matter how you want to proceed with this case, is to see to it that you have a lawyer with you when you appear in court. He can see the court papers, confer with the judge and the prosecutor and then tell you of all of your rights and choices so that you can make an intelligent decision as to how you want to handle your case. Nobody other than a defense lawyer will do that for you. It's not the job of the prosecutor and the judge to represent you.

Your first date in court is generally your arraignment. That's where you come before the judge, your charges are formally placed into the court record and you are asked how you plead. If you have a lawyer with you, he will tell you what to do and take it from there. If you are unable to afford a criminal lawyer, you can plead not guilty to keep all of your rights open, then tell the judge you are too poor to afford a lawyer and ask him for a public defender.

Customer: replied 11 months ago.
How do I get a good lawyer that won't break the bank?
Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 11 months ago.

Most lawyers these days take credit cards, and that means you can pay off your debt, which is helpful.

Beyond that, lawyers base their fees on how much of their time they will need to spend to resolve your case. Trials are expensive, even for a misdemeanor matter. it can take upwards of $5,000. That's because the lawyer must make repeated court appearances, file paperwork, and prepare for and then represent you at hearings and trials. On the other hand, if you all you want is someone to show up with you to try to negotiate a deal that will keep this off of your record, for a case of this sort, the lawyer wouldn't have to come to court more than two or three times, and it can be a relatively inexpensive proposition.

Try contacting the U*** S**** B** A*********** L***** referral service. Not only is it a good place to get a ballpark estimate of what representation may cost in your area for a case like this, it's a good place to find a qualified, experienced criminal lawyer. They charge about $50 for the referral to a criminal lawyer, but that includes a free half hour consultation with the lawyer.

Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 11 months ago.

Just checking in to see if you need more help or any clarification of my answer. If so, please reply here on this question thread.