How to Fight a Theft Case: Information and Strategy
Identify the Alleged Amount of LossOne key element in any type of theft case is the amount of loss alleged by the "victim." Whether this alleged victim is a department store such as Macy's, Walmart, or Gap, or the alleged victim is a former employer, friend of boyfriend/girlfriend, the amount of loss is one of the major factors that will determine the seriousness of the case. In theft cases, an amount of loss over $400 may result in felony grand theft charges, while an amount of loss under $400 may result in misdemeanor petty theft charges. In embezzlement cases, the amount of loss, if over $50,000 will often result in an additional enhancement which requires mandatory state prison time if proved.
No matter what the circumstances, knowing what amount of money is involved in the alleged theft offense will help determine whether the case has a strong chance of being resolved informally or will proceed to trial.
Determine whether a Civil Compromise Type Agreement is AppropriateNot all theft cases settle, nor should they. Each case needs to be evaluated on its own individual facts; however, when there is small loss such as $100 from a business such as a hair salon, or perhaps another "mom and pop" type small business, a civil compromise may be an appropriate disposition. A civil compromise is a legal document which your attorney can prepare for the other party to sign which states that the other party has been fully compensated for any loss incurred, and that the other party is not interested in criminal prosecution. A civil compromise is not a guarantee that a criminal petty theft or grand theft case will not be filed; however, it does give the Court the authority to immediately dismiss the case if the Court believes this is a just action. Often large companies such as Macys etc. have legal departments which have a corporate policy of refusing to sign these civil compromise documents but it is always worth a chance if it results in a potential dismissal.
Disclose all the Factors Affecting your Mental State at the Time of the IncidentIn order to be convicted of a theft offense, the prosecution needs to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you had an intent to steal or defraud the alleged victim. The taking of the property cannot be accidental or inadvertent. Evidence of your intent may include statements you made at the scene of the incident, or videotape surveillance demonstrating an intentional action on your part (such as switching tags on merchandise or concealing unpaid for items on your person). Medications, traumatic circumstances, drug or alcohol impairment, or mental health issues, can all affect this element of intent and create a potential defense in your case. A knowledgeable defense attorney will explore all issues related to criminal intent to determine whether this may be used to gain leverage in negotiations or to win at trial.