It may not sound like much of a crime, but stealing a thing of any value may lead to a damning theft conviction, haunting ones employment opportunities forever. California's petty theft statute, Penal Code sec. 484, is something you do not want to ever see on your record or on a potential employee's record (if you are doing the hiring). That's why it's of paramount importance to avoid such a conviction in the very first instance by not committing such a crime. Don't do it! Stores have eyes that you cannot see. Trained "loss prevention officers" pose as customers, monitor closed circuit televisions systems and have myriad other tricks up their sleeves to detect nefarious activities.
There are techniques for your lawyer to employ if you happen to be "behind the 8 ball" with a theft case. Penal Code sec. 1377 and 1378 provides for what's known as a "civil compromise dismissal" that may apply in certain situations. First offenders with a low value item might qualify for petty theft diversion or plea bargaining to prevent the theft offense charge from becoming a conviction. Effective plea bargaining requires your lawyer to know not just what happened, but why it happened.
People steal. Temptation and excitement sometimes are the motivating factors. But there are others-depression, family problems, drugs and alcohol, to name a few. Most thefts are isolated, caused by a unique and temporary problem, and will generally not be repeated.
PC 484 requires a finding of proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the alleged perpetrator harbored the specific intent to permanently deprive the owner of his property. Sometimes, this intent requirement is difficult for the prosecutor to prove if the person simply made a mistake by being forgetful or was distracted.
Each court and prosecutor evaluates cases differently and your experienced attorney will know the best approaches to obtain an outstanding result.