What Happens if Someone Presses Theft Charges Against You?
Having theft charges can be a frightening experience. The alleged victim is usually angry and looking to blame someone. The police officers involved may attempt to intimidate you into confessing. A prosecutor might try to convince you that a conviction in court is almost certain so that you agree to an unfair plea deal. None of these people are on your side. You must exercise your constitutional right to consult with a defense attorney.
Despite what you may see on television, a private citizen cannot “press charges against you.” The United States has no avenue for private prosecutions, and a person can only be charged criminally through the public law enforcement system. A private citizen, however, can cooperate with the police and provide critical testimony and physical evidence. Once the officers have sufficient evidence, they can file criminal charges in the appropriate court.
It is important to remember that being charged with a crime is not the same thing as being convicted. While prosecutor can choose to bring theft charges against you, only a judge or jury can determine your guilt or innocence. You have the right to fight back against these charges, and the attorneys of Gerald Miller are here to help. Reach out for a free consultation as soon as possible.
The Court Process for Theft Charges
Once theft charges have been filed against you, you will be summoned to appear in court. For minor charges (misdemeanors), a court summons usually arrives in the mail. Do not ignore this. If you fail to appear in court at the designated date and time, a warrant could be issued for your arrest. For serious charges (felonies), an arrest warrant can be issued when the charges are filed. Once a judge issues a warrant, you will be arrested as soon as possible and brought to court to answer the charges.
Whether you are arrested immediately or appear at a scheduled hearing, the first step in the court process is the arraignment. As is your constitutional right, you will hear the charges filed against you and be asked if you wish to plead guilty or not guilty. In general, a defendant will not plead guilty unless they have accepted a plea deal. The plea deal must take into account all of the circumstances in the case, including the fact that the defendant is voluntarily waiving the right to be tried by a jury. It is seldom appropriate to plead guilty to the charges at an initial hearing. Be sure to consult with your own defense attorney before making this decision.
Once the initial charges have been filed and release conditions have been set (such as posting bail), the attorneys will begin exchanging evidence, known as the discovery process. In the discovery process, the attorneys investigate the case to discover its strengths and weaknesses. This knowledge allows the prosecutor to make a fair plea deal and allows the defense attorney to provide sound advice to the client about whether or not to accept a plea deal.
If no plea deal is reached, the case will be set for trial. Pretrial motions (such as excluding evidence) might be addressed before the trial. On the day of trial, the attorneys will work to select a jury, and followed by the judge impaneling and instructing the selected jurors. The case begins with opening statements, first the prosecution and then the defense. The attorneys present their witnesses and evidence in this same order and conclude with closing statements. At this point, the jury is sent to deliberate and decide on the defendant’s guilt. If the defendant is acquitted, the case is over. If the defendant is found guilty, the case will proceed to a sentencing trial. Legal issues challenged on appeal are taken up once the defendant’s sentence has been set.
Can Theft Charges Ever Be Dismissed?
There are circumstances in which a court will dismiss a theft charge. If, for example, the case was based on a witness identification of the defendant, but the witness later recants, the prosecutor’s case may no longer be strong enough to pursue. If the police searched the defendant without a warrant, any evidence they found may be ruled inadmissible. The prosecutor might be forced to dismiss the case if there is insufficient enough remaining. A criminal court can even dismiss a case over the prosecutor’s objection, should there be insufficient evidence on which to hold the defendant.
Please keep in mind that dismissals are rare. Most defendants should not expect to have their charges dismissed. Plea agreements resolve the majority of criminal cases in the United States. A plea agreement can even keep criminal charges off your record altogether.
Diversion Programs for Theft Charges
Participating in a diversion program will keep the charges off your record, provided you meet specific requirements. You might be required to attend counseling, pass drug tests, or perform community service, to name a few. The diversion program may also stipulate that you can acquire no new criminal charges during your time in the program. The prosecutor would agree that, if you complete all program requirements, they will dismiss the charges against you, leaving you with no conviction on your criminal record.
Diversion programs are not available in all cases. They are usually only available to first-time offenders and most often involve shoplifting charges. Even if it is your first offense, however, you may still not be eligible if the theft involves a large sum of money or a highly valued property. It is always worth asking your defense attorney if a diversion program might be available to you.
Negotiating Down Theft Charges
There are times when a plea bargain might be in your best interest—just not the plea offered by the state. In many cases, the evidence against you could be strong enough to believe your conviction is likely. When that is the case, one of the best ways your attorney could help is by negotiating the charges against you down to a different, lower offense. Alternatively, your attorney might be able to secure the dismissal of some charges in exchange for a plea of guilty to another.
The state has the final say on the charges it brings against you. While some prosecutors are unlikely to reduce these charges out of the goodness of their heart, many will offer to do so as part of a plea agreement.
One of the major benefits of reducing the charges you face is that there are specific collateral consequences that come with theft charges. Theft charges can impact your future in ways that non-theft charges cannot, including obtaining professional licenses or finding work. By pleading to a lesser charge that is not related to theft, you could avoid many of the worst consequences of a criminal conviction.
The attorneys of Gerald Miller understand the importance of negotiating the charges against you to a lower offense. Even if a dismissal is not an option in your case, our team is prepared to work tirelessly to give you the best chance of success. Our firm has a track record of success when it comes to defending allegations of theft, and we look forward to the opportunity to do the same in your case. From fighting for a dismissal to pushing for lower charges, our team will fight for the outcome you deserve.
How to Beat a Theft Charge at Trial
Despite the best efforts of your legal team, it might be impossible to favorably resolve your case before trial. The state might be firm in their refusal to make an acceptable plea offer or dismiss your charges. If your attorney’s motions to dismiss the case are unsuccessful and no other resolution is in sight, beating your charge could hinge on successfully taking your case to trial.
Before your case can go to trial, your attorney must first determine a viable defense strategy. A strong defense strategy could not only benefit you at trial, but it could also improve your chances of having your case dismissed.
There are numerous potential defense strategies available in a theft case. As a baseline, the state must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. If they fail to do so, you are entitled to an acquittal. Other defense strategies could focus on other suspects, unlawful searches or seizures, or the lack of criminal intent.
Taking a theft case to trial can be challenging, especially on your own. When you have an attorney to rely on, you could have the peace of mind that comes with knowing you are doing everything possible to beat these charges. Your attorney could prepare witnesses, question the police, introduce evidence, and make a strong statement to the jury before and after your trial.
If you prevail at trial, you will walk away without a criminal conviction to your name. A full acquittal means that you will not face any direct or collateral consequences that come with a theft conviction. It is a best-case scenario for many people who have been arrested for theft in Minnesota.
Experienced Minnesota Criminal Defense Lawyers for All Theft Charges
Every criminal case—including allegations of theft—can bring consequences that alter your life forever. Even lower-level misdemeanor offenses could greatly impact your life in the future. An aggressive defense strategy could help you avoid an conviction for theft entirely.
Theft charges do not only result in prison sentences and hefty fines. They can also carry collateral consequences that follow a defendant for the rest of their life. Do not make your outcome worse by taking legal advice from a police officer or prosecutor. You have the right to your own legal counsel from a defense lawyer. Call (612) 440-4608 to schedule your free consultation with an experienced Minnesota criminal defense attorney.
Related Content: Can You Be Charged With Theft For Shoplifting in Minnesota?