Question: “I had two strikes – attempted burglary, and burglary. I have a third strike, arson, but it was struck. What happens if I get a drug charge or a felony in the future? Do I get life? Should I move to another state, in order to make things okay?”
Answer: You are in a very serious situation. Moving out of state will not make things okay. A strike stricken for purposes of disposition in one case does not remove that strike from your record. You would be best suited contacting an experienced, local criminal defense attorney to best represent you.
Question: “I got caught shoplifting and they sent a letter saying I had to pay a fine. I stole something that was worth $5, and it was returned unopened. The police were never called. Is this going to show up on my criminal record, or a background check? Do I check “yes” or “no” when asked if I have been convicted of a crime?”
Answer: As of now, no. In the future, not likely. You have not been prosecuted or convicted yet. It also doesn’t appear that you have been arrested, so there is nothing to appear on your record. Depending on when the event took place, and a statute of limitations, I cannot state with confidence that you cannot be prosecuted at a later time. On a job application, you can check “no” at this point because you have yet to suffer a conviction.
Question: “For a first time offender, what is the best possible outcome I can get for a misdemeanor?”
Answer: Each case is different, and the defenses and arguments to be made vary from case to case, even when the charges are the same. With respect to whether you can keep your record clean, the answer is yes, possibly, in this type of case it is sometimes possible to complete informal diversion whereby you complete some tasks, return, and upon proof of completion, you obtain some benefit ranging from a reduced charge to, in some cases, a dismissal. A pardon would not be applicable in your case. However, should it be necessary, you could seek an expungement to clean your record. Consult with an attorney to represent you in this matter, and explain the possible outcomes with you further.