Defenses Against Maryland Theft Charges
Theft in Maryland is taking something from a person or from some other entity without their consent. The elements of theft are not having permission or the right to take what someone is alleged to have taken.
This is what the government must show to prove the case. There is not a complex set of elements to the offense. The complexity materializes when there is an allegation of theft between two civilians. When there is an allegation of theft between two parties, the story is much more complex.
Someone could claim they loaned a person something and the other person claims the item was a gift. Another situation occurs when someone claims that a person stole something from them. When in fact, the two parties purchased the item together when they were in a relationship with each other, or perhaps roommates. These cases are far more difficult for the government to pursue. Because theft cases can become so complicated, it is essential to have an experienced Maryland theft attorney who practices in this field.
Felony theft is usually any amount taken that is over $1,000. For a misdemeanor, usually the amount taken is under $1,000.
Consequences of a Theft Charge
Theft under $100, which is the least serious kind of theft charge, carries a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $500.
Prosecutors handle theft cases very diligently depending on the kind of theft. A very minor shoplifting offense is not a theft that is considered a serious crime, especially when someone does not have a criminal background.
However, when someone habitually steals anything even though the thefts are minor in nature, such as several shoplifting offenses on a person’s record, the prosecution takes those offenses seriously and may request jail time.
While these charges seem very petty in nature, in some situations they are taken very seriously by the prosecution depending on the factors of each individual case.
Contacting a Maryland Theft Lawyer
When someone calls a criminal lawyer’s office to discuss their current theft charges, the theft attorney needs to know a lot of things about that person. They would want to know what the person’s record is because in some misdemeanor theft cases, a person without a record could have their charges dropped by way of some kind of pre-trial diversion.
The Maryland theft attorney also wants to know the facts of the theft allegation as the person understands them. Was this a simple shoplifting case, which is usually pretty easy to handle. Was this a grand theft involving banks, check or credit card fraud, or things of that nature?
The information the person provides helps the attorney understand the case and prepare a defense for the person in a court room beyond that first phone call. As such, it is very important to speak openly and truthfully with the lawyer.
What Factors a Lawyer Will Consider
The first thing is to know is the person’s record. Someone with no prior criminal background in theft cases is treated differently than a person who has a prior criminal background.
It is extremely important that a Maryland theft attorney knows their client’s criminal record. This is instrumental in ensuring that the client receives the proper advice on what to expect with their case.
Another important element is that the Maryland theft attorney understands their client’s version of the events. If the client is adamant they did not take something unlawfully and had permission to be there and take the item, the attorney must know that defense to make proper arguments. If the client has an alibi and this is a case of mistaken identity, it is important to present that information to the government in a timely fashion before the trial date. It may alleviate the need to appear in court. Having the relevant information before or at the time of trial allows the attorney to properly defend his client in court.
Defense Strategies for Theft Crimes in Maryland
The prosecutor is required to prove a theft by proving that the defendant not only took something, they took it without consent.
For example, if a prosecutor alleges that someone went into a bank, walked behind the counter and took $10,000 out of the register, the individual probably didn’t have permission from the bank to do that. However, without a bank representative testifying in court that the person did not have permission to enter the bank and do those things, the government is not able to prove the case against the individual. This is where the witnesses become extremely important because under the law, the prosecution is required to demonstrate the theft as part of their burden of proof.
Possible Probation When Facing Theft Charges
With first time theft related offenses where the individual does not have a prior criminal background such as a misdemeanor or shoplifting offense, the client may be eligible for diversion. A diversion means the prosecutor is willing to not go forward on the criminal charges against the client if they participate in something like community service.
Community service is done through the county. The prosecutor, in exchange, dismisses the case completely so the client does not have a criminal record of the incident.
In other situations, particularly for first time offenders, a client may be given the opportunity to be on probation if the person was charged with something more serious such as a felony theft where diversion was not appropriate.
Probation is an option for clients because it gives them the opportunity to stay out of jail and meet certain conditions with the court. Probation may include paying restitution. It might include doing community service or reporting to an agent. If any of these conditions are not met, this may result in a violation hearing taking place where a judge could potentially determine that a punishment or penalty such as jail time might be appropriate.