I hear people say, “I was arrested for a petty theft, I did it, I just want to get this behind me. I’m going to just go in, plead guilty or no contest, pay the fine, and get probation.”

What’s wrong with that?

EVERYTHING.

Petty theft dispositions vary wildly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.  Sometimes you can get a deferred prosecution, sometimes some payment or community service in exchange for a dismissal, sometimes a reduction to an infraction.

If you have an otherwise clean record, this kind of conviction can be devastating in the future.  It may carry immigration consequences.

You have to talk to a private attorney or public defender before you resolve something like this on your own.  Just because you got a citation and were not arrested does not mean this is a traffic ticket.  It is a criminal offense with serious potential repercussions.