During arrests, police officers use strobe lights on their vehicles and in their flashlights to confuse and disorient suspects. This technique often works, especially if the defendant hasn’t been in serious trouble before. When these cases go to court, prosecutors often stay with the shock-and-awe approach. Once again, this approach is usually effective if the defendant hasn’t been in serious trouble before. So, by design, the criminal justice system is overwhelming.
Usually, an aggressive, hard-nosed approach is the best way to successfully resolve criminal charges. Fortune favors the bold. Sometimes, however, it’s best to step back and take a breath, so the system doesn’t overwhelm you. Usually, if a Marietta criminal defense lawyer follows the five-step plan outlined below, the defendant walks away without a criminal retail theft conviction. That’s usually the ultimate goal in any criminal defense matter.
This plan starts before the case officially goes to court. Usually, friends and family members immediately call bonding companies when a loved one is arrested. That’s a good idea. It’s a better idea to call a Marietta criminal defense lawyer. An attorney clearly outlines the pros and cons of all three forms of jail release, which are:
- Own Recognizance Release: OR release is usually available to first-time, nonviolent offenders. Defendants promise to play nice and the sheriff releases them. Time is the biggest downside. The OR release process could take several days, although a lawyer could get this party started and hasten the process.
- Bail Bond: The number two jail release option in a retail theft case is like an insurance policy. If Tim buys a car insurance policy, and he pays the premium and follows the rules, the insurance company covers the loss if he wrecks the car. A bail bond is basically the same. Usually, premiums are lower and rules less restrictive if the defendant already has a lawyer.
- Cash Bond: The fallback option in a retail theft case is like a security deposit. If Tim rents an apartment, pays the rent, and keeps the place clean, the landlord refunds most of the security deposit. If Tim pays the full cash bond amount and he follows the rules, the county refunds most of that money when the case is over.
All three options are usually available in snatch-and-grab retail theft cases. Schemed retail theft cases are a little more complicated. More on that below.
Hiring a Lawyer
Since hiring a lawyer early is so important, we probably should’ve put this point first. But realistically, most people don’t think about retail theft criminal defense until they’re out of jail.
A few shoplifting defendants might be entitled to court-appointed lawyers or public defenders. Typically, these lawyers do excellent jobs. Many have years of experience. But others are new lawyers who are just starting out and care little about criminal defense.
So, a public defender is like the lotto. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. Furthermore, you have no control over winning and losing. The judge or a senior public defender randomly assigns someone to your case.
When you interview private Marietta criminal defense lawyers, look for experience and dedication first, as mentioned above. The criminal justice process is not just overwhelming for defendants. It’s overwhelmed more than a few lawyers as well. Experience should include some trial experience, and dedication usually means an attorney spends more than half of his/her time on criminal law matters.
Accessibility is important as well. The best attorney/client relationships are partnership. It’s hard to be a partner with someone who only has an office in Atlanta. Additionally, your lawyer should be professionally accessible. S/he shouldn’t hide behind a wall of secretaries, legal assistants, and less-experienced associates.
Identifying Procedural Defenses
What’s done is done. When police officers and prosecutors make procedural errors, such as illegally interrogating suspects, they can’t turn back the clock and fix them.
We mentioned schemed retail theft cases above. Let’s look at them closer and see how they could involve a procedural defense.
These schemes usually involve a store employee and a customer. The store employee often under-rings items at the cash register or approves refunds without receipts. Then, the two split their ill-gotten gains.
Frequently, the store employee lets something slip in the break room, and Martin overhears the conversation. Martin alerts Principal Skinner who then interrogates the store employee. If these Principal Skinners are police officers, they must inform suspects of their legal rights before they ask any questions. A failure to do so could mean the answers, including the identification of a co-conspirator, are inadmissible.
In court, prosecutors must establish every element of an offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Frequently, the evidence isn’t available, especially since the trial in a retail theft case might be more than a year after the arrest.
Legally, defendants commit retail theft when they “deprive the owner of possession thereof or of the value thereof.” So, at trial, a person must testify that I owned the property which was worth X dollars.
Many owners lose interest in retail theft cases almost immediately, especially if they get the property back, insurance covers the loss, and the smash-and-grab defendant never comes back to the store. If owners or other witnesses refuse to cooperate, prosecutors could subpoena them and force them to testify. But that usually doesn’t happen in nonviolent cases.
So, at trial, the state can prove Max took something, but the state can’t prove who owned it and how much it was worth.
Pilots often say that any landing you can walk away from is a good landing. Marietta criminal defense lawyers often say that any non-conviction outcome is a good outcome.
Prosecutors often offer pretrial diversion in shoplifting cases, especially if a procedural or substantive defense might apply. Pretrial diversion isn’t as good as an outright dismissal. But it has the same effect. If defendants jump through a few hoops and promise to go forth and sin no more, prosecutors dismiss the case. Other favorable resolutions are available as well.
Step by step, you’ll make it through a retail theft case. For a free consultation with an experienced Marietta criminal defense attorney, contact The Phillips Law Firm, LLC. Virtual, home, and jail visits are available.