Have You Been Charged With Theft?
Could you be wrongly accused of committing a theft in or near the St. Louis area? If you’re charged with a theft in Missouri, you’re going to need the services and advice of a Jefferson County theft attorney, and you’ll need to contact that attorney as soon as possible.
What constitutes theft in Missouri? What are the penalties for a theft conviction? Why will you need to be represented by a Jefferson County theft lawyer? Continue reading this short discussion of theft – and your rights if you are charged with theft – for the answers to these questions.
What Constitutes Theft in Missouri?
A theft happens in Missouri when someone takes someone else’s property or services without permission and without any intention of paying for it or returning it. It’s also illegal in this state to receive items that you know or believe may be stolen.
Theft in this state includes robbery, fraud, shoplifting, auto theft, and embezzlement. Whether the charge is a misdemeanor or a felony depends on the value of what was taken, the nature of the items or services that were taken, and the defendant’s previous criminal convictions (if any).
Penalties for theft convictions vary widely in this state. The penalty for a Class A felony theft conviction is ten years to life in prison, but a first offense involving less than $150 worth of stolen property is a Class D misdemeanor subject upon conviction to a $500 fine.
How Can You Fight a Theft Charge?
If you are charged with theft and you honestly believed you were entitled to the stolen items or services, that belief is an admissible defense against a theft charge in Missouri. Other defenses that your attorney may offer on your behalf include:
- You’ve been “framed” or misidentified, and someone else committed the theft.
- No theft actually happened, and the charge against you has been fabricated
What’s the Truth About Theft?
Many people have false beliefs – misconceptions – about theft that are simply wrong. Here’s a list of those false beliefs and an explanation of the truth behind each of these misconceptions:
- You have to commit a theft to be charged with burglary.
- Retailers – and many other theft victims – never actually call the police.
- Pleading guilty is the easiest and most expedient way to handle a theft charge.
- Having a theft conviction expunged is easy.
- If you’re charged with theft, you don’t really need an attorney.
Misconception #1: A Burglary Charge Requires a Theft
Under Missouri law, someone commits a burglary by entering or remaining in any building or inhabitable structure without consent and with the intention to commit a crime inside. That crime may be theft, assault, or any other crime.
However, that intended crime does not have to happen in order for burglary to be charged. Simply entering a structure without permission with criminal intent is enough to prompt a burglary charge.
Misconception #2: The Police Will Not Be Called
You may have read that retailers in some cities no longer allow employees to call the police in response to shoplifters. While that may be true in some areas, it certainly is not true in Missouri. Many retailers hire security personnel and use surveillance cameras extensively.
Many stores post signs that read “Shoplifters will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” and they mean it. Even admitting your theft to a security guard and returning the stolen items may not prevent a call to the police or keep you from being charged with theft.
Misconception #3: You Should Plead Guilty to a Theft Charge
You may think that pleading guilty and putting a theft charge behind you is the expedient thing to do, but pleading guilty to a theft charge is never a good idea. A conviction for any crime creates a criminal record that can be seen by neighbors, landlords, and potential employers.
When you’re charged with theft – or any other crime – you have the legal right to offer a defense and the right to a trial before a jury of your peers. Even if you committed the theft and you are willing to be punished, you should enter a not guilty plea and heed your attorney’s advice.
Misconception #4: Expunging a Theft Conviction is Easy
Expunging a theft conviction is a complicated process, and expungement is not guaranteed. For starters, you must wait three years after a misdemeanor conviction or seven years after a felony conviction simply to begin the expungement process.
You’ll need an attorney focused on helping clients through the expungement process, proof that you’ve completed your sentence successfully, and letters from employers or others who can verify your rehabilitation. At an expungement hearing, these questions must be answered:
- Have you satisfied all legal obligations related to your theft conviction?
- Have you been found guilty of any other crime since the theft conviction?
- Are any other criminal charges pending against you?
- Does your conduct indicate that you are rehabilitated?
- Does your expungement serve the interests of justice and the public welfare?
Misconception #5: You Won’t Need an Attorney for a Theft Charge
Don’t even think about acting as your own lawyer. Missouri criminal law is exceedingly complicated, and it’s constantly changing. Moreover, your freedom and your future will be at stake. You must put your theft case in the hands of the right Jefferson County theft attorney.
If you’re guilty of theft, don’t compound that mistake with a second mistake – acting as your own lawyer. If you’re not guilty, having a Jefferson County theft lawyer fighting on your behalf is your best chance for winning an acquittal. But how can you select the right defense attorney?
Let Grafe & Batchelor Fight for You
If you are facing a theft charge, now or in the future, you must contact a defense attorney immediately. Your lawyer will need some time to investigate your case and develop an aggressive, effective strategy for your defense.
The legal team at Grafe & Batchelor has successfully defended clients charged with theft crimes in Jefferson County, St. Francois County, Washington County, and throughout the greater St. Louis area. We have more than thirty years of combined criminal defense experience.
A theft attorney at Grafe & Batchelor will thoroughly review the evidence against you, prepare your defense, and protect your rights while bringing your theft case to its best possible outcome. If you are charged with a theft crime, promptly contact the law offices of Grafe & Batchelor at 636-933-9151, and an attorney will provide a free, no-obligation evaluation of your case.