Technically, I never left the store and it is impossible for them to predict my intentions. I could've been trying it on just walking around the store as far as they're concerned.
First thing that most shoplifters fail to understand: you don't need to leave the store in most states to be guilty of a shoplifting crime. Rather, the crime is often complete when (1) you take possession of the item (2) with the intent to deprive the store of it. Concealing the goods or misrepresenting them as yours while in the store indicates your intent to deprive the store of it. When you try on clothes, you typically look at how it looks in the dressing room and then remove it and put on your own clothes when you leave the dressing room. It's common for shoplifters to try the trick of leaving the item on as though it were the clothes they walked in with. If the state convinces a jury that's what you were doing, you can be convicted of shoplifting in most states.
He handed me a piece of paper and said sign here. I signed and after I signed he jerked it out of my hand and told me it was an admission of guilt I signed. I looked at him with the fury and wraith of the devil himself. He didn't tell me at all what I was signing and I was a juvinile with no parents present. That was a sketchy situation.
That's not sketchy. You are 16 years old. And despite the generally sorry state of our public education system, it's nevertheless reasonable for the cop to assume you know how to read. You had the chance to read before you signed it. If you decided not to do that for whatever reason, that's your fault. If it was a confession you signed, it is likely to be admissible against you. The cop was required to tell you what the document said (because you could read it yourself) and there is no requirement that your parents be present before the cops question you or present you with a confession to sign. You could have asked for a lawyer, but if you didn't, it wasn't up the cops to get you one before signing the confession.
You can try to convince the jury you didn't read it and didn't make a knowing confession, but you can guess how far that typicallly goes: lots of people have second thoughts about their confessions and try to weasel out of them. Juries tend to think that's exactly what defendants are doing when they claim they didn't read the document in the first place. NEVER SIGN A DOCUMENT YOU HAVE NOT READ. As a lawyer, I've seen far too many people hurt themselves by violating that simple rule.
I'm not white trash, I did have enough money to pay for the shirt. Matter of fact, I had enough money to pay for up to 10 polo shirts if I wanted one.
Newsflash for you: the vast majority of shoplifters are not "white trash" either, and do in fact have the money to pay for the goods they steal. Think of the millonaire celebrities caught shoplifting in the last couple years for example. If you think that arguing to the jury that you could not be a thief
because you had the money to pay for it will help you, think again. Most people know that not just poor people steal from others, so that's not very helpful in your defense. And it can backfire on you. Having the money to pay for it is in part what makes the crime even more offensive. One might have a bit more sympathy for someone who was very poor and was stealing to, say, get money to eat and avoid starvation. Someone stealing who is not poor and can afford to buy the goods is just someone trying to enrich himself at the expense of others, and that's what make thieves universally loathed.
I'm not a thief. I'm a 16 year old who made a mistake.
If you are going to get something out of this, then get out of the denial. You are a thief. Your own facts posted here admit as much. You were knowingly involved in a scheme to steal the shirt. You left the dressing room with the intent of wearing that shirt out of the store without paying for it. You had the criminal mindset of a thief. While you are allowed to deny being a thief in court to defend yourself, at least be honest with yourself. You don't do yourself any favors by making excuses to yourself to try explaining this away. I will agree that stealing was a mistake, and that's a lesson worth remembering.
Also, is there any way that if I get probation to only have to go to the one in my city instead of the one in the neighboring city? I don't want to have to drive 15 miles weekly for probation if I even do get probation.
Perhaps it can be transferred, but you'll need to ask a lawyer about that. I'd not hold your breath on that, though. They don't craft punishment for criminals to make it comfortable for them. As the saying goes, don't do the crime if you can't do the time (or this instance, can't drive the relatively short distance involved).
What I'm hoping for is maybe to just pay the fines and be done with it. I want to try and avoid probation at all costs because I'm a 16 year old. These are supposed to be the best years of my life. I don't want them to be ruined because of one stupid mistake. It tears me up inside that I might have to spend my last couple of years before college in worry and not being able to do hardly anything, you know?
Your life won't be "ruined" by a shoplifting charge at age 16. Your conviction likely can be sealed at age 18 and won't affect college and future employment. But you might get probation and have some restrictions on your life. Again, that falls under the category of "if you can't do the time, don't do the crime." Be glad of one thing: you are learning an important life lesson in circumstances where the impact will be relatively light. Stealing after age 18 hurts a whole lot more. You end up with a criminal record that can follow you for life, with the result that finding a good job becomes a whole lot harder as few employers want to hire known theives.