So you were having a moment and you messed up. Maybe you couldn’t afford something you really, really wanted or maybe you just simply felt you could get away with it? Either way, you were caught and now you’re in a mess that will need to be dealt with. This article isn’t meant to shame you. After all, we’ve all done bad things from time to time as humans, but knowing how to handle the criminal defense for your stealing conviction is important. Listed below are a few basic FAQs on stealing charges. Use these to help you make the best decision for your case.

1. What should you say or do when you initially get caught?

This is very important. You DO NOT want to resist the arrest. Because what started as “stealing” can quickly become a “robbery” which is felony in the state of MO. If you punch, kick, or hurt the officer or anyone else involved, you’re going to get a much steeper fine or punishment. So the best thing to do is to be nice and cooperative. Say you are stopped on the way out of Walmart or something, just go with them back to the office. Don’t cop an attitude and be humble, admit to what you did and answer their questions in a nice and cooperative way. Don’t be rude or lie. They have you on camera so there is proof of your stealing. Walmart’s cameras are so strong, in fact, they can read a toothpaste label! So yeah, don’t steal, and especially don’t steal from Walmart.

2. What if I get a Deferral Letter in the Mail?

That letter is good. In most instances, it means what you stole wasn’t of huge value and so a class would be appropriate for you to take. It’s the jurisdiction’s offer to you to keep it off your record. It’s usually an 8 hour class that you will take in a group setting. It costs around 85–120 dollars. It’s usually on a Saturday but sometimes it is broken up over two, four-hour blocks on the weekend. There will be someone there teaching you about why it’s wrong to steal and how it’s a big problem in our country etc. It’s best to talk to an attorney since each case is unique and different, but in general, if this class is offered to you, it’s best to take it. It’s the more affordable route. I would not, however, suggest waiting around for this letter. If it hasn’t shown up in a month’s time, go talk to an attorney. Also, be careful who you hire. Some criminal attorneys will take 1,000 or 1,500 dollars from you to “handle” your case, you get the letter for the class and they take credit for it saying oh look what I did for you? When the letter was on it’s way anyways without their help. My best advice, wait a BIT for the letter, and if it doesn’t come, go find an honest and reputable attorney to help you. If you stole a car or robbed a bank, you’re not going to be getting a letter. That’s felony territory. We are talking more stealing some clothes or video games from the mall kind of situation. Of course it depends on the jurisdiction you are dealing with if you get the letter or not. Most criminal defense lawyers do a free consultation for stealing convictions so it would be a good idea to at least go talk to someone soon after.

3. What is this Demand Letter I got in the mail about?

If you steal from a big company like Walmart or another similar sized company, you will most likely get this letter from their attorney’s out of Florida saying if you pay this 200ish dollar fine, we won’t sue you. Can you believe this letter is a complete shame? It’s true! Guess what happens if you don’t pay the fine? — nothing. Absolutely nothing. They will even tell you this in the court appointed class on stealing. It’s just a quick and easy way for them to make more money, they call it a “restocking fee” It’s a total scam. Don’t pay it. You’re already paying for what you did in other ways. It’s called a demand letter. Look up Walmart in casenet, have you ever seen them sue someone for stealing? They aren’t going to sue you. It’s a scam. They do it because legally, they can.

4. Do I need to get it expunged?

It depends. Is having this on your record is going to affect your career? You need to start with that question first. Do we need to mitigate or fix damage to keep your career from being harmed? It’s always best to have a clean record. It depends on the type of case, but most expungements cost between 750–2500 dollars. Many small business owners will overlook something like a DWI, but when it comes to stealing, it’s a moral issue. How do they know you aren’t going to steal from them? When it comes to stealing, often an expungement is worth the money. You don’t want to be passed over for a job over one stupid thing you did in college. You may be fine? Some background checks only check for felony charges or state charges. So can you get a job without one? Sure. But it is definitely a risk you are taking. If you do get an expungement you can expect it to go off your record within 60 days. Your attorney will let you know if you use our office. Will will make sure you know. At the end you’ll be given official documents showing the expungement.

5. How many times will I have to go to court?

Potentially none. If its say lipstick at Sephora, probably never. Your attorney can handle it for you. If its a felony, probably at least a few times. The greater the price of what you stole, the greater the charges. On a side note, stealing an animal of any price is considered a felony!

6. What are the different levels of stealing crimes?

To put it simply, there are three levels when it comes to a stealing crime.

The first level is — Deferred Prosecution. This is the lowest level and the one in which you will most likely be mailed the stealing class letter for. This is for items stolen that cost under 500 dollars usually. Taking the class is a way to avoid the criminal justice system altogether. Just remember — You have to take your ticket seriously, even if you plan on going to the class. Make sure you go to your court date. Do not miss your court date because you are waiting for the letter. If you go to court on your own you can work with the prosecuting attorney and may be able to resolve the issue easily if it’s your first offense. They may suggest the class or offer you to do so many hours of community service and tell you they will keep it off your record. You can always deny their offer and say you want to hire an attorney. It is totally up to you. Sometimes their offers can be reasonable, so it’s something you just have to consider for yourself. A judge will always give you enough time to look for a lawyer if you ask for it.

The second level is called a Misdemeanor. You will need a criminal defense attorney for this one and most likely it involves going to court, paying some court costs, and taking the class. You may have to do some community service too. The fines get steeper when it’s your second or third offense. You DEFINITELY want to hire an attorney if that’s the case.

Thirdly we have a Felony. This is much more serious. It’s like an all out burglary. The price of what you stole usually starts around 1,000 to 2,500 to be considered a felony. You absolutely want to hire a good attorney for felonies. Judges take them very seriously and they have steep and lasting consequences. Do not attempt to handle a felony on your own. It’s incredibly risky. The charges can be around the same level as a murder in some cases, just to give you an idea. It depends on the level of the crime you commit of course.

I hope these FAQs helped you and you are now a little more knowledgeable on what to do in a stealing situation. I have handled many stealing cases and have had favorable outcomes with happy clients. I would just like to be honest and say that if you are looking for the cheapest lawyer in town, don’t hire me. I’m not your guy. I go the extra mile and I charge for it. I am easy to contact and will talk to my clients after hours if they need it. If you hire me for an expungement, you’re going to get a lot of extra care.

I have an online case management program that will tell you exactly where you are in the process and I will make sure to tell you personally when your record has been wiped clean. You will also get an official form that states your record has been expunged with a judge’s seal on it. Many criminal lawyers don’t offer that. So in short, you are going to get the extra mile with me, and that is why I am not the cheapest. I am also not the most expensive.

There are all kinds of criminal attorneys out there, so my advice is to look at reviews and do your research. Should you decide you want to use me for a stealing case, I will give you a free consultation and would be happy to work with you! Here is an interesting article that might be able to help you in hiring a criminal defense attorney.

**This article was written for MRD Lawyers, A Law Firm based in Springfield, MO. You may contact them on their website at Answers to FAQs were created based off an interview with attorney Matthew Russell.

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