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What you risk when you plead guilty to theft charges

Whether you got stopped by a loss prevention professional when attempting to leave a store or your employer accuses you of pilfering business supplies, your first instinct might be to plead guilty because you don’t want to go to court. People worry about how the media might pay attention to a trial and may think that they face worse penalties if they try to fight criminal charges instead of pleading guilty. 

Some people plead guilty in the hopes of minimizing the impact of pending criminal charges. There is some faulty logic at play in such decisions, as pleading guilty will leave you at the mercy of the courts and result in a criminal record. 

You could face jail time and fines, possibly felony charges

The penalties you face and the charges the state brings against you depend on the circumstances that led to your charges. The total value of the items involved in the situation will determine the charges someone faces and the possible penalties. 

If the combined value of the items allegedly stolen is less than $2,000, the defendant will usually face misdemeanor charges. It is only after the value exceeds that $2,000 threshold that the offense becomes a felony. It is worth noting that if the victim of a theft offense is a vulnerable older adult, the state may pursue felony charges even if the amount of the items involved fall far under the $2,000 threshold. 

If you plead guilty, there is no guarantee that a judge will sentence you to probation instead of jail time. They will typically have the discretion to sentence you as they see fit, depending on their opinion of the situation. Developing a defense strategy to theft charges can help you avoid a conviction and the penalties that may come with it, ranging from jail time to a lifetime criminal record.