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What Happens to a First-time Petty Theft Offender

If you have been charged with petty theft, you might be wondering what to do next and asking yourself where you went wrong. At Luftman, Heck & Associates, we understand that shoplifting or other petty theft crimes are often a one-time mistake or occurred because you were pressured by your peers. The desire to be cool and fit in can be overwhelming, leading you to do something you normally wouldn’t consider.

If a mistake has landed you in the hot seat, you aren’t out of options. Our experienced petty theft attorneys can help you defend yourself against these charges or push for a pretrial diversion program in order to avoid a criminal conviction. We are prepared to aggressively represent you in court and do what is best for your future.

Call the theft attorneys with Luftman, Heck & Associates today at to schedule a free consultation.

Understanding Theft

If you are facing petty theft or other theft charges, you must first understand how Ohio law defines this crime. Under the state’s criminal code, theft can be more than simply walking out of a store with a few products in your pocket without paying. Statute 2914.02 defines theft as one person, with the intention of depriving the rightful owner of property or services, exerting control over or obtaining property or services:

  • Without consent of the owner
  • Beyond the scope of implied or express consent given by the owner
  • By threat
  • By intimidation
  • By deception

You can be charged with petty theft in a number of circumstances, from shoplifting to obtaining money, property, or services from someone else based on false promises. However, specific factors determine when prosecutors will charge you with petty theft versus grand or aggravated theft.

What is Petty Theft?

Under Ohio law, prosecutors will charge you with petty theft when you allegedly obtained services or took property worth less than $1,000, so long as the items are not a vehicle, firearm, or drugs. If you took one of these items or if you stole property or services from an individual with a disability, an elderly person or a service member, then you may be charged with a harsher offense than petty theft.

The Consequences of a Petty Theft Conviction

Petty theft is the lowest theft crime you can be charged with and is a first-degree misdemeanor. All other theft charges are felonies of a certain degree. Upon conviction of a first-degree misdemeanor, you may be sentenced to spend up to 180 days in the county jail and pay up to $1,000 in fines. You will also have a criminal record that can affect going to college, getting a good job, and renting an affordable apartment.

Options for First-time Offenders

When you are a first-time petty theft offender, which means you have no previous criminal convictions, there may be another option for you instead of jail time, such as a pretrial diversion program or a plea agreement. Diversion programs can differ greatly from county to county. However, the basic premise is the same. Instead of proceeding with a trial, you and the prosecutors agree to a program that includes supervision, community service, restitution, and possibly other elements for a set period of time.

Depending on your circumstances, you may be required to complete drug or alcohol testing, education or rehabilitation. If the courts believe your crime was motivated by addiction, you may be eligible for Intervention in Lieu of Conviction (IILC). Through this specific diversion program, you can receive court-supervised addiction treatment. This includes counseling, testing, community service, restitution, and remaining drug and alcohol-free for at least 12 months.

If you complete all elements of the diversion or IILC program successfully, the petty theft charges against you are dropped and you will not end up with a criminal record. However, if you do not complete the program, you will be found guilty of petty theft and can be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

Depending on the circumstances surrounding your arrest and your background, you may not be eligible for a pretrial diversion program. In this case, your attorney can attempt to negotiate a plea agreement with the prosecutor. As a first-time offender, your attorney may be able to negotiate an arrangement in which you avoid jail time and instead submit to probation, fines, restitution, and community service. It is not always possible to avoid a conviction. However, a skilled attorney can help you minimize the consequences of a conviction.

Call a Columbus Petty Theft Lawyer Today

Being charged with a crime for stealing is scary, particularly when prosecutors are saying you will go to jail and have to pay hefty fines that you cannot afford. Instead of being intimidated by the prosecutor’s worst case scenario, contact Luftman, Heck & Associates to learn about your legal options. Our experienced legal team is ready to analyze your situation and develop a strong defense for trial.

Give us a call at to schedule a free consultation.

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Luftman, Heck & Associates LLP
580 E Rich St Fl 2
Columbus, OH 43215-5335


FAX: (614) 413-2886