On the afternoon of July 15th, 2012 I was detained after shoplifting $58 dollars worth of merchandise. I was compliant, they took all my information down, called the police, took my photo (as well as police), recieved a trespass order and gave me a receipt for civil demand from the Michael Ira Asen law firm. They told me I should receive a summon to appear court in the mail as well as a civil demand. I know that I did the crime, so I have to own up to the consequences, but I am awfully confused about this. This is my very first run in with the law, I am 16 years old. Do I need to pay the civil demand or is it just an intimidation? Should I consult an attorney? What is the court system/process like? What additional action should I take? I am so naive to this whole situation...
You should not make any more admissions, including on line, because fora such as this are not confidential. The things that you say or write here might be used as evidence against you in court. You and your parent(s) should seek a confidential counsultation with a criminal defense lawyer. If you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, then you and a parent should apply to the Office of the Public Defender for an appointed lawyer.
Information in the reply is provided as a public service. It is neither a comprehensive statement of the law nor legal advice, and no one should rely on it as such. If you have a legal problem or question, you should consult with an attorney, who can investigate the particular circumstances of your situation. Responding to a post does not constitute legal representation. I am not your lawyer, until we make an agreement and I receive my fee. Beware that posts and replies are not confidential. Anyone can read them.
Stop making admissions online or anywhere else for that matter. If you have a court date and you are facing criminal charges get a lawyer. S/he can advise, guide and defend you. S/he can probably negotiate a favorable disposition so that it won't affect you in life. The civil demand is a totally different story. I generally advise clients to ignore these civil demand letters. You don't owe them anything. In order for you to owe them something they would have to sue you, (in some jurisdictions prove damages which they most likely couldn't do), and win. Even if they could win, the cost of pursuing this is substantially greater than any amount they can possibly recover so they usually don't. They send out these letters because it doesn't cost much and they are hoping that you don't know better and simply send them the money. Nothing will happen to you if you don't pay it and it won't have any impact on any criminal case one way or another. Take a look at an article in the Wall Street Journal at the link provided below.
You are a juvenile. You will not be charged as an adult with a crime. As a juvenile, you will only be charged with committing a "delinquent act." You and your parents (or other legal guardian) will be asked to appear for an intake meeting at the Department of Juvenile Services (DJS) in Rockville. You have the right to legal counsel at that meeting, which is advisable. Because it is a first offense, you will be offered the opportunity to do a a program that does not involve appearing before a judge and admitting/trying any criminal charges. If you agree to do the proposed program (usually a class, some community service hours), the prosecutor's office will be notified of that and has the option to agree or not agree to the offer, but in this type of situation, they will agree. You then complete the program, the case will be closed at some point, and that's the end of it. If you choose to go to trial or the prosecutor rejects the program, then the case with be adjudicated by a juvenile court judge. No matter what happens, you will not have a record, you will never be "convicted" of anything, and the proceedings remain sealed. You should discuss all this with your parents and suggest they consult with legal counsel about representation. You should not worry about any long term consequences, and if you do as you are told, nothing bad will happen to you.
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