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What happens when you're busted for shoplifting

Getting caught shoplifting triggers a series of distressing problems. Some are psychological: You feel ashamed. You get mad at yourself. Telling your family is super stressful. You feel you let them down.

The store that caught you will likely issue a trespass warning, informing you that you are no longer welcome on their premises. If you return, you could be busted again, this time for trespassing.

Your friends, who may have thought it was a hoot to steal items, may shun you for getting caught.

Depending on the town you are arrested in, and the judge reviewing your case, penalties can be quite obnoxious.

You will face some combination of fines (including court costs), having to make restitution, performing community service (like picking up litter along the highway), being on probation and having to report, taking a class on the problem of stealing, and accept counseling you don't want.

Will you go to jail?

You probably won't do jail time, but that is up to the judge, your history and the circumstances of your case.

If found guilty, you will definitely have a misdemeanor on your record.

Your school or your employer may find out. They may expel or fire you. News of your conviction may appear in the newspaper or online.

Graduating to felony charges

If the value of stolen items exceeds $1,000, you are no longer in misdemeanor trouble. You may be charged with a felony -- in the same class as armed robbery and grand theft auto.

These same penalties apply to other petty theft crimes: receiving stolen goods, using stolen credit cards, and "pump-and-run" (driving away from a gas station without paying).

We can help

We at Mahaffey & Associates of Toledo can't help you with all these problems. But as your lawyer we have strategies to prevent conviction or -- when conviction is inevitable -- to minimize the pain conviction causes you and your family.

This may mean qualifying for a first-time offenders or diversion program, or expungement of all mention of this conviction on your criminal record.

We know that this feels bad, and you are scared and depressed. In our experience -- if this helps you to know -- things usually get better after this.

Good luck to you. Call us if you want help you on the legal end of things.

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