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You saw something you wanted. It was small and you were tempted, so you took it. Is that bad? Yes, especially if you got caught and are charged with petty theft. Criminal cases are always a big deal even if the charge you pick up is relatively minor.
If you got caught shoplifting and have been charged criminally, then yes, you do need a lawyer. Any criminal charge has consequences beyond the potential punishment associated with the offense, and a good defense attorney can make the state work to prove its case against you or negotiate a favorable resolution.
Whether or not you are guilty of committing a crime, it is always a good idea to have a defense attorney. Counsel negotiates with the prosecution for you. The importance of a defense attorney is so evident, in fact, that public defenders' offices were created to guard the rights of the indigent accused. In other words, even the state recognizes that it's not fair to expect lay people to resolve cases with professional prosecutors. That should signal the significance of a defense attorney.
You want to defend yourself to get the best resolution and minimize the consequences of the incident. A first charge for a minimal offense can turn into a major headache if you are put on probation, say, and fail to pay and are found to have violated the terms of your plea.
A prosecutor's offer and the potential punishment you face if convicted after a trial will depend on your criminal history and the value of the property lifted. Your attorney, whether appointed by the state because you qualify based on your financial situation or whether hired privately, should discuss options with you.
Going to trial and negotiating a plea each have advantages and disadvantages you must understand in advance of any decisions. Also, defense counsel reviews the state's evidence and looks for challenges to the case based on procedural or other legal issues.
If you're charged with a crime, even one that is seemingly minor, speak to a lawyer. Many criminal defense attorneys consult for free or a minimal fee and will be happy to discuss your case.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.