My question involves criminal law in the state of New Jersey.
Last week, I was charged with committing the offense of shoplifting--in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:2-11B(1)--from a Walmart location (note: this is my first criminal offense). As such, I was issued a summons to appear in court tomorrow morning. After extensively reading similar threads that have been posted, I noticed that the vast majority were advised to enter a not-guilty plea and seek counsel at their arraignment.
Although this is probably the best path to take, I don't know what would be the best choice in my case. To put this simply, I do not have ANY means to afford a public defense, let alone a personal attorney. I am unemployed, and thus have absolutely no income; I also do not have any assests under my name. Nor do I have any friends/family that would financially support me in this case. Just to note, I am unemployed due to a physical disability. As it stands now, I have no clue how I'll manage to pay the court fee(s) and civil demand letter.
So, given my circumstances, would I just be better off entering a plea of guilty and bearing the weight of a criminal record? Or is there something I am unaware of that would make it practical for me to plead not-guilty, despite having no means to pay for a defense?
I apologize for appearing so desperate, and sincerely appreciate any advice that is offered.