In Virginia, conviction for theft charges may have serious consequences and harsh penalties. The Virginia theft laws are split into several different categories, and the specifics of the crime you are charged with will depend on your singular case.
Law enforcement officers investigating theft crimes must weigh many circumstances, including where you stole the item from and how much the thing is worth when deciding what type of theft charge to bring against someone. These two factors will primarily determine the nature of your charges and how your case may be effectively defended.
Recently, the Virginia Governor signed new theft laws that raised the dollar value needed to charge a misdemeanor or felony theft charge. Generally, if the value is $1,000 or more the charge will be a felony, and if less than $1,000 the charge will be a misdemeanor.
To fully understand the consequences you may be facing, you must learn everything you need to know about these new laws. As soon as you know you may be charged it is vital that you consult with an experienced, knowledgeable Roanoke criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.
It’s important to remember that your theft case is unique, and your criminal defense lawyer will use all the facts in your case to try to provide a successful defense.
Whether you are charged with a theft or a robbery, your criminal defense lawyer will collect and compile available facts, such as eyewitness testimony, video evidence, forensic evidence such as DNA, and more.
If your lawyer can determine a provable alibi, your lawyer may help find witnesses, which may significantly help your case. Your lawyer will also investigate the evidence regarding the severity of the crime, as well as all other applicable facts. If injuries occurred during the commission of your theft, then other charges could be brought against you.
There are numerous different acts of stealing that may be charged as theft crimes. Some of these are taking property of another person with the intent to permanently deprive the rightful owner of their property (theft), taking something of value that was entrusted to you through your job (embezzlement), and concealing merchandise while shopping (shoplifting).
Your criminal defense lawyer will know precisely what the Commonwealth must prove to convict you, and will try to mount a winning defense by knowing all the exact details of your charges.
Some defense strategies that your criminal defense lawyer may employ are:
- You are innocent of the crime.
- Your constitutional rights were violated.
- You had sufficient cause for the crime or self-defense.
- You had a mental illness that contributed to your actions.
Admittedly, these defenses are broad, and they may or may not apply to your case. This is why getting a criminal defense lawyer involved as soon as possible is vital and allows them to get ahead of serious issues that could end up with severe consequences for you.
What Might Be Some Specific Defenses To the Crime of Theft?
Your attorney may be able to file some pretrial defense motions that could result in the dismissal of charges, or raise such defense motions in trial defenses. You need a Roanoke criminal defense lawyer with the skill and experience to know how and when to make these motions.
Some other specific defenses to the crime of theft could include:
- Equal Ownership of the property involved – many times, the ownership of property is unclear, and more than one person may have a right to it.
- Good Faith Possession – You were under the impression that the property involved was yours, which is now being contested.
- Valueless Property – The property has no intrinsic value; therefore, no actual “crime” was committed.
Your criminal defense attorney may investigate the fact that you had a genuine belief that you had the legal right to appropriate the property, or whether the owner gave their consent, or the owner can’t be found at all.
You may also believe that theft is commonly a “cut & dry” crime, which is simple to defend, but you would be wrong. Only by consulting with a local Roanoke criminal defense lawyer and providing them with specifics of your case will you be able to know the strength of the case and the penalties you are facing.
What Are Possible Penalties for Theft in Virginia?
You might believe that theft is not much to be concerned about, especially when it’s a misdemeanor charge. You would be wrong. When the merchandise value is less than $1,000, you could be guilty of petit larceny, which is a Class 1 misdemeanor. If you are convicted of petit larceny, you face a penalty of up to twelve months in jail and a $2,500 fine.
However, if the items have a value of $1,000 or more, you could face a grand larceny charge, carrying severe consequences and prison time. If you are convicted of grand larceny you face a penalty of one to twenty years in prison.
Are “Plea” Deals With the Courts Common in Theft Crimes in Virginia?
It may be hard to believe, but almost 90% of all criminal cases end in a plea agreement due to the sheer volume of cases and other factors. The cases that go to trial are usually in matters where one side will not accept a plea offered, or you believe that the state cannot prove its case.
In a “plea” deal, there are three main areas of legal negotiations involved, they are:
- Charge bargaining – Getting your charges reduced or some charges dropped.
- Sentence bargaining – Reducing your sentence.
- Fact bargaining – Arguing or diminishing the facts regarding your case.
Plea negotiation is where the expertise and experience of your criminal defense lawyer can affect the outcome of your case the most. So, make sure your Roanoke criminal defense team has the expertise you need to fight for your rights and freedom aggressively.
I Have Been Charged With Theft in Virginia; How Should I Proceed?
First and foremost, do not take any theft charge lightly. You should understand that even a misdemeanor theft charge can lead to jail time. Gather all the specifics of your case, and immediately consult with an experienced, knowledgeable, and empathetic Roanoke law team as rapidly as possible.
Your criminal defense lawyer will analyze all the details of your arrest, the charge you are facing, and the circumstances surrounding them. They will immediately start to fight on your behalf and defend your legal rights and freedom. By working with a local criminal defense lawyer, you will always be acting in your best interests and protecting your future.