This is not a 2-point speeding ticket. You must hire an attorney. If this is your first shoplifting offense, and you are in Municipal Court, you are most likely not going to jail, but do you really want a conviction for shoplifting on your record for 5 years? What employer is going to hire you with that shoplifting offense?
There are many good attorneys charging very reasonable rates to defend shoplifting offenses. We typically charge $500 for shoplifting offenses that occur locally which is very reasonable.
What Can an Attorney do for me?
If you did not take the merchandise, then you should seriously consider having a trial. The Municipal Court Prosecutor represents the State (indirectly the store) and they are usually very capable trial attorneys. You need one, too, if you are taking your case to trial.
If you took the merchandise and the State’s case is very strong, your attorney will consider a plea bargain. The Prosecutor might consider an amendment to disorderly conduct which is a petty disorderly person’s offense and can be explained to a future employer. Better yet, your attorney might be able to amend the shoplifting charge to what is referred to as a Borough or City Ordinance. This disposition depends on the Court and the Prosecutor, but I have obtained this extremely favorable disposition for my clients dozens of times. A borough/city ordinance is akin to taking the garbage out on the wrong day. Such a disposition should have no negative effect on your future.
In other cases, an outright dismissal might be in order. Although not the normal disposition for a defendant charged with shoplifting, I have secured this type of disposition when the defendant is remorseful, it is a first offense, the dollar value of the merchandise is small, etc. In addition, a motion to dismiss for failure to prosecute will be made by your attorney if the store fails to show up for court several times (not once, but several). This will result in your charges being dismissed if the Judge grants your motion.
Suppose this is not my First Offense?
All the more reason to hire an attorney. Your attorney might be successful in amending your shoplifting offense so you can avoid community service and jail.