Petty theft cases are misdemeanors which are defined as thefts of $950 or less in value. These charges can carry possible serious consequences not only in penalties but also impact employment, careers, professional licensing, security clearances, education, immigration and other important aspects of an individual's life. Most petty thefts are shoplifting cases and involve the stealing of merchandise from a store. The penalties can include possible custody or alternatives up to 6 months and fines up to $1000 depending on the facts of the case, individuals background, prior record, sophistication and other considerations.
A petty theft starts usually with the detention by store security as a result of observation by undercover security or video surveillance. Police are called and after brief investigation, the suspect is cited and released with a Court date usually 30 days away. The police reports are then forwarded to the District Attorney (DA) for review and formal filing of charges. It is a mandatory appearance for the defendant unless they have retained an attorney, then the attorney can make all appearances for them. At the first Court date or arraignment, the attorney would enter a plea of "not guilty", request police reports and continue the case for several weeks for possible settlement.
The attorney would then review the reports with their client, get their version of the facts, check for legal issues and defenses. Then determine the best possible way to proceed to get the charge dismissed, reduced to a lesser charge and minimize penalties. Even if caught "red handed" and confessed, it may still be possible to still get the charge reduced, dismissed or penalties minimized for future imapct.
There are many considerations in negotiations like a persons background, record, health, medications, underlying reasons for the theft, cooperation, sophistication, and other considerations. There is the military diversion program for active duty and veterans resulting in dismissal if you meet the criteria. There is the possiblity of an infraction with a small fine instead of a misdemeanor. Most cases are settled through the plea bargaining process, but there is always the ability to have a jury trial if it cannot be settled. It is importortant to contact an attorney if you are cited or arrested for a theft charge because there is a lot that can be done. Christoph Law Offices have been across from Vista Courts for over 32 years providing the highest level of personal and professional criminal defense representation, call 760-941-5720 for a free consultation.