The holiday season is one of excitement, twinkling lights, and the warmth of family gatherings. Unfortunately, for some, it can also mean an unexpected entanglement with the law. If the police have arrested you for theft this holiday season, the situation might seem overwhelming. While it’s essential to recognize the seriousness of these charges, remember that you’re not alone. The Fairfax theft defense attorneys at Whitestone Young, PC, can help you through this challenging time and protect your rights. Here are some essential things to know if you face theft charges this winter.
Misdemeanor Theft vs. Felony Theft in Virginia
Strictly speaking, Virginia law does not recognize “theft” as a crime. Instead, theft cases typically fall under one of two crimes. The first is petty larceny, also called “petit larceny.” Virginia law defines petty larceny as stealing less than $1,000 in goods or money from a business, organization, or individual, or stealing less than $5 worth of goods or money directly from someone’s person. Petty larceny is a Class 1 misdemeanor in most cases, and potential penalties include up to one year in jail and up to $2,500 in fines.
The more severe type of theft under Virginia law is grand larceny. According to state law, someone commits grand larceny when they steal more than $1,000 worth of goods or money from a business, individual, or organization; steal any firearm, regardless of its value; or steal more than $5 worth of goods or money directly from someone’s person. The law says grand larceny is a felony in Virginia, with penalties including up to 20 years in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.
Intent Is a Major Factor in Virginia Theft Cases
In Virginia, the element of intent plays a pivotal role in theft cases. Why? Because merely taking someone else’s property isn’t enough to establish a theft charge. The prosecution must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the accused not only took the property but did so with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of it.
This emphasis on intent can benefit criminal defendants. If the defense can demonstrate that the accused had no intention of permanently taking the property or genuinely believed it was theirs to begin with, this can cast doubt on the theft charge.
Always Examine the Evidence and How Police Obtained It
Every piece of evidence in a theft case carries significant weight, as it can either bolster the prosecution’s claims or provide a foundation for a defendant’s counter-arguments. It’s crucial for defendants and their legal representation to meticulously examine each piece of evidence. Ensuring its accuracy, validity, and relevance can mean the difference between a conviction and a dismissal.
Equally important is how the police obtained the evidence. The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures. If law enforcement overstepped their boundaries or failed to follow proper procedures, the evidence they collected might be thrown out. For instance, if the police retrieved an item from a defendant’s home without a valid search warrant or proper consent, it’s possible to challenge the admissibility of that evidence.
Talk to an Attorney ASAP
One of the most critical actions a defendant can take is to consult a defense attorney immediately after an arrest. First, an experienced attorney can guide defendants through the complex web of legal procedures in a theft case, ensuring they make informed decisions and avoid legal pitfalls. Second, talking to an attorney early in your case means they can get a jumpstart on building a strong defense strategy. This proactive approach can allow the attorney time to unearth valuable information or inconsistencies in the prosecution’s claims, setting the groundwork for a robust defense.
Are you facing theft charges in Fairfax this holiday season? The Virginia criminal defense attorneys at Whitestone Young, PC, can help you reach the best possible outcome in your case. Call us today at 703-591-0200 or complete our contact form for a free consultation.