How Lawyers Defend Miami Theft Charges: FAQ

How Lawyers Defend Miami Theft Charges: FAQ

Getting charged with theft in Miami can be really scary. You may be wondering what’s going to happen to you, or if this charge is going to ruin your life. Don’t worry – there are some good defenses that lawyers use to fight these charges. I talked to some lawyers in Miami to find out how they handle theft cases. Here’s what I learned:

What is Petit Theft?

Petit theft is when you take something worth less than $300. It’s a misdemeanor, not a felony. But it can still get you jail time and screw up your life. Petit theft charges are common in Miami – things like shoplifting, stealing a bike, taking packages off someone’s porch, etc. Usually it’s dumb mistakes by people down on their luck, not hardened criminals.

What Happens if I’m Charged?

If you’re charged with petit theft, you’ll be arrested and taken to jail. You’ll have to post bail to get released until your court date. When you go to court, you’ll be formally charged by the prosecutor. If you can’t afford a lawyer, the judge will appoint a public defender to represent you.

What are the Penalties?

For a first offense, petit theft is a second-degree misdemeanor. That means up to 60 days in jail and 6 months license suspension. A second offense becomes a first-degree misdemeanor – up to 1 year in jail plus 1 year license suspension. It also goes on your criminal record and can affect jobs, school, immigration status, etc. So you want to avoid a conviction if possible!

What Defenses Can My Lawyer Use?

A good lawyer has lots of ways to fight petit theft charges. Here are some common defenses:

  • Mistaken identity – you didn’t do it, someone else did
  • False accusation – someone lied and blamed you
  • Illegal search – cops violated your rights
  • No criminal intent – it was an accident or misunderstanding
  • Consent – the owner said it was ok to take the item

Your lawyer will investigate your case, look for legal technicalities, and build the strongest defense. Often they can get the charges reduced or even dismissed.

How Can a Lawyer Beat the Charges?

To prove petit theft, the prosecutor has to show 1) you knowingly and unlawfully took property, and 2) you intended to temporarily or permanently deprive the owner of it. A good defense casts doubt on one or both of these elements.

For example, if you accidentally walked out with a store item without paying, you didn’t have criminal intent. Or if a friend said you could borrow something, there was consent. Your lawyer can argue these points to the prosecutor and sometimes get charges dropped before trial.

If it goes to trial, your lawyer can raise doubts in the judge’s mind during cross-examination of witnesses. Police officers often exaggerate or lie in these cases. Your lawyer can catch them in inconsistencies that make them less credible. This creates reasonable doubt so the judge has to find you not guilty.

Should I Just Plead Guilty?

Never plead guilty without talking to a lawyer! Many people think there’s no hope once they’re charged. But a good lawyer wins theft cases all the time by forcing the state to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt. Don’t give up hope – fight the charges!

How Do I Find a Good Lawyer?

Ask friends for recommendations. Search online reviews. Look for lawyers with experience winning petit theft cases. Meet with a few lawyers before choosing one. Ask about their strategy for defending you. Make sure you feel comfortable with them. A good lawyer-client relationship is important.

Public defenders are free but overloaded with cases. A private lawyer with time to dedicate to you is preferable. Their fees are usually affordable, or you can ask about payment plans. It’s worth it to have the best defense possible!

What If I Can’t Afford Bail?

Your lawyer can argue for lower or no bail at your first court appearance. They’ll say you’re not a flight risk, have community ties, and need to keep working and going to school. If the judge sets bail you can’t afford, your lawyer can file an emergency motion to get it reduced.

Should I Just Return the Item?

Yes, returning the stolen item shows good faith. But it doesn’t always get charges dropped. The owner has to agree not to press charges. Your lawyer will negotiate this for you if possible. But there are no guarantees, so be prepared to defend yourself in court.

What Else Should I Do?

  • Cooperate fully with your lawyer and follow their advice
  • Be respectful in court and dress nicely
  • Get character references from employers, teachers etc.
  • Enroll in counseling or community service before your court date
  • Continue working, going to school, caring for family – maintain stability

Doing positive things can help convince the judge to give you a break. Your lawyer will guide you in taking the right steps to improve your case.

The Bottom Line

Petit theft charges are scary but beatable. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can often get them dismissed or reduced. Don’t plead guilty – make the state prove its case. With a good lawyer on your side, you have an excellent chance of avoiding conviction so this one mistake doesn’t ruin your life.

Good luck and stay positive! Many people have overcome petit theft charges in Miami and gone on to live happy, successful lives.

[1] FAQ: Petit Theft Charges in Miami
[2] FAQs | Miami Criminal Defense Lawyer
[3] Criminal Defense FAQ
[4] Shoplifting Charges in Miami
[5] FAQs | Miami-Dade County Criminal Defense Lawyer
[6] Petit Theft Charge? How a Miami Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help