Somerville, Tennessee, along with the rest of Fayette County, is a fast growing area. More families are moving there, and more companies are doing business there. With such growth, however, can come an increase in small crimes such as shoplifting. If you’ve been charged with shoplifting in Fayette County, you should consider talking to an experienced criminal defense lawyer to get it taken care of properly. Shoplifting is formally called theft of property in Tennessee. Most shoplifting charges will be in the $500 or less range, which is a misdemeanor, although if it’s over $500 it is a felony. Misdemeanor shoplifting is punishable up to 11 months and 29 days, while felony shoplifting is at least one year. If you have nothing on your record and you’ve been charged with this crime, you want to do everything possible to keep it off. This article will explain how that can be done. After a person has been charged with shoplifting in Somerville (usually through a citation issued by the police), he or she will be ordered to go get “booked,” or processed. This is usually done sometime between getting the citation and going to court. This is not a court date, and is usually done at the police station or the jail. At booking, the individual will have their fingerprints and picture taken, and will have to fill out some forms with their date of birth, full legal name, social security number, and address. The purpose of this is so the court can create a file on the person. You do not need a lawyer for booking. Within a few days or weeks after that will be the court date. For a Fayette County shoplifting charge, court will be in General Sessions Court located in downtown Somerville. This is where you go in front of the judge, are read the charges, and are asked if you will plead guilty or not guilty. This is where you want to have a lawyer with you. Your lawyer will speak to the judge on your behalf, and most importantly, will begin the process of negotiating with the prosecutor on how to get the charge resolved. How your Somerville shoplifting charge gets handled is just going to depend on the facts, including what store is involved. Tennessee has a law called merchant restitution, or merchant diversion, which allows for a dismissal of a shoplifting case if the defendant pays restitution of up to two times the amount of merchandise back to the store. If both the store and the prosecutor are willing to do this, you (or more likely your lawyer) would pay the store and get a letter in return stating that payment has been made. After presenting the letter to the prosecutor, the court would then dismiss the charge. Usually in merchant restitution cases, you’re required to also pay court costs. Sometimes, though, this option isn’t available because the store doesn’t accept it. Some stores simply won’t participate in merchant restitution. If that is the case you need to look into diversion, which is a program of supervised probation. Like restitution, diversion will get the charge dismissed from your record, but it requires going on probation and paying additional fees and costs. The probation could be for up to 11 months and 29 days. At the end, the charge is dismissed and removed from your record. You must have a clean record to go on diversion. In other words, you can’t have any prior convictions. Patrick Stegall is a Somerville, TN criminal defense lawyer who has helped many first-time offenders with theft cases. If you’ve been charged with shoplifting in Fayette County, contact Mr. Stegall to see what options you have for keeping it off your record. You can call him at (901) 205-9894 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.