They say accusations of theft increase during the holidays, which mean they could be on a lot of people’s minds as the temperatures start to drop again. That’s especially true because the consequences of theft charges in Hampton Roads can be life-altering. From fines to jail time to a permanent mark on your record, the stakes are high. But remember: being charged with a crime does not mean you will be found guilty. At Shannon & Associates, our Hampton Roads theft defense lawyers want everyone to have the information they need to defend their legal rights. With this in mind, we’ve compiled the top five things anyone accused of theft in Hampton Roads should know about beating these charges.
The alleged amount stolen and method of theft matters
“Theft” as a term could describe one of two different crimes under Virginia law, which differ based on how much the suspect allegedly stole and how they supposedly stole it. Petty larceny, also called petit larceny, is the crime of stealing less than $5 worth of goods directly off someone’s person or stealing less than $1,000 from a business, organization, or individual. 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 charge under state law is grand larceny. Grand larceny is the crime of stealing more than $5 worth of goods directly off someone’s person; stealing $1,000 or more worth of goods from a business, organization, or individual; or stealing any firearm, regardless of the firearm’s value. Grand larceny is a felony in Virginia, and the potential penalties include between one and 20 years in jail and up to $2,500 in fines.
Intent also matters in theft cases
To be found guilty of theft, it’s not enough for someone to take another person’s property. Prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused deliberately intended to unlawfully take and permanently deprive the owner of that property. This emphasis on intent offers a potential defense avenue. Any credible doubt about the accused’s intent—perhaps they believed the item was theirs or planned to return it, for example—could challenge the prosecution’s case.
The quality of evidence (and how the police obtained it) is critical
In theft cases, the prosecution builds its case on evidence. However, evidence isn’t always as ironclad as it appears. Close examination can reveal inconsistencies or inaccuracies. For example, surveillance footage might be grainy, timestamps might be incorrect, or police might not have maintained a clear chain of custody for a certain item. Such discrepancies can be pivotal, introducing doubt into the prosecution’s narrative and potentially weakening their position.
Moreover, any errors or inconsistencies in how the police obtained the evidence could undermine the prosecution’s case. Evidence obtained without following the proper legal procedures could be deemed inadmissible in court.
Challenging eyewitness testimony can aid your defense
Witness testimony often plays a defining role in theft cases. However, witnesses might have lapses in memory, personal biases, or even hidden motives that affect what they say. In such cases, challenging the credibility or reliability of a witness can be a strategic move. It’s not uncommon for witnesses to misremember events or details, especially if there was a significant time lapse between the incident and the trial. External influences, such as media reports or discussions with others, can also unintentionally mold a witness’s memory over time.
An alibi can be an airtight theft defense
An alibi is someone’s testimony or other evidence that they were somewhere else when the alleged theft occurred. This is one of the most direct and compelling defenses against theft charges. If corroborated, an alibi can dismantle the prosecution’s narrative by providing concrete evidence that the defendant was elsewhere when the incident took place.
Facing Theft Charges? Contact Our Hampton Roads Defense Lawyers Now
The consequences of a theft conviction are severe and could dramatically change your life for the worse. But there are steps to take to mount a proactive defense, such as working with The Hampton Roads defense attorneys at Shannon & Associates. We know how to build an effective strategy to combat these charges and protect your freedom. Call (757) 228-5529 or complete our contact form for a confidential consultation.