Petty theft is a crime for which well-intentioned people are often wrongly accused. You may have legitimately thought you had the owner’s permission to take a particular item. You could receive a gift that was stolen and not even realize it. Or you could be shopping in a department store when you suddenly receive an emergency call from a family member. As you hastily rush for the door, you forget that you’re still carrying a piece of store merchandise.
Honest mistakes like this happen all the time, and it doesn’t mean you deserve to live with a criminal record for the rest of your life.
What is petty theft?
Petty theft is a misdemeanor offense. It refers to stealing property with a value of $950 or less. If convicted of this crime, you could face:
- Six months in jail
- Fines of up to $1,000
In addition, having such a conviction on your record could create major hurdles in obtaining employment down the road. Potential employers may be more prone to view a candidate as dishonest or untrustworthy if they have a theft conviction on their record.
Is diversion an option?
Fortunately, being charged with petty theft doesn’t automatically result in a conviction. An experienced criminal defense attorney can explore other options on your behalf.
One option that is often available to defendants with misdemeanor charges is a diversion program. A diversion program is a form of pretrial sentencing in which you join a rehabilitation program, thereby avoiding conviction. The designated diversion program will vary depending on the case, but may include such things as:
- Completing court-ordered community service
- Completing a drug treatment program
- Paying full restitution for the item that was stolen
Diversion is an option that is often available to first-time offenders for nonviolent, misdemeanor offenses. If you are facing petty theft – or other misdemeanor – charges, it’s worth consulting with an experienced defense attorney. They may be able to negotiate a diversion resolution for your case.