Will I go to jail for the theft of $250 worth of clothes?
Question Details: I was caught trying to take merchandise from a store and was given a summons to court. The charge reads, "Theft by unauthorized taking or transfer".
No, assuming that this is your first offense, you will not receive jail time. However, a shoplifting charge is a criminal offense so you should try to consult with a defense attorney. They might be able to get the charge dismissed on a technicality, etc. And the sooner a lawyer gets involved in your case, the better the potential outcome. Even if the charge doesn't get dropped, for a first offense, you can possibly receive what is known as "diversion" ("deferred adjudication", etc.). This is an alternative sentencing program whereby you will plead guilty, receive probation, and upon completion, your plea will be withdrawn and the charges dismissed. Typically, your "rap sheet" (i.e. criminal history record) will automatically be cleared (although in some jurisdictions you may have to apply to get it "expunged" (i.e. cleared). However, it should be noted that diversion is only allowed for first time offenses. Consequently, if you get into trouble again it will not be available to you. That's why if you get an attorney who can get the case dismissed, you'll be eligible for diversion if ever needed in the future.