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What are your options if facing a petty theft charge?

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
  • Probation
  • 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.

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