You should plead not guilty and call and criminal defense lawyer in your area for advice. A retail theft charge requires you to be fingerprinted, which means that it will appear on future criminal background searches as well as your clearance papers that are required for teachers. As a criminal defense lawyer, I understand that good people make bad decisions, but many prospective employers are not as open minded. They may see the theft conviction and, without knowing the fact pattern, simply put your application in the trash. I understand that you are a poor college student and can't afford an attorney, but there are also times that you cannot afford not to get an attorney. This charge can impair your ability to obtain a job in the future, so, in my opinion, you cannot afford to not get an attorney. Some attorneys accept payment plans and may be willing to work with you. I just got a call last week from a parent that found out that that his son had pleaded guilty to a retail theft charge for stealing a $5 sandwich, and, since he pleaded guilty, there was nothing that I could do to avoid that conviction and mark on his record. Do not make that mistake because you won't be able to fix it after the fact. You may be eligible to have it expunged in five years, but an expungement is only the destruction of the government record and does NOT change the fact that you have been convicted of a criminal offense and does not change the fact that the charge may still appear on criminal background searches of private records. Call a local attorney as they may know the officer, judge, and loss prevention officer at the store and thereby know what might be done to avoid the conviction.
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