Defending Against Virginia Theft Charges
A theft conviction carries serious penalties in Virginia, and those accused should reach out to an experienced attorney as soon as possible. At Del Rio Law, PLLC we have extensive experience defending people accused of theft. Each case is different, and our firm does not use “off the rack” tactics. Instead, we carefully review the facts to identify the weaknesses in the state’s case.
Below, our Virginia theft crimes attorney highlights some of the different defenses that we might raise on behalf of our clients. Contact us for information tailored to your situation.
Creating Reasonable Doubt
There are several types of theft charges in Virginia, and each has its own elements. The state must prove each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt to secure a conviction. This means that we can often get an acquittal if we can disprove at least one element.
Consider shoplifting. Virginia Code § 18.2-103 identifies the key elements of the crime:
- Intent to convert goods
- Without having paid the full price
- Without authority
- Willfully concealing/possessing goods or changing the price tag
If we can throw doubt on at least one element, we can defeat a shoplifting charge. For example, our client might not have intended to take the goods. Instead, they might have put something in their basket and carelessly forgotten to take it out at the checkout aisle. This carelessness is really negligence, not an intent to convert goods.
Or there might be a question about whether our client paid the full purchase price. Maybe the clerk told our client that the price was reduced at checkout. In other situations, we might muddy the waters about whether our client changed the price tag or if a different customer did. As you can see, a simple crime like shoplifting presents many different avenues for creating reasonable doubt.
Arguing Mistaken Identity
We can sometimes argue that someone committed theft, but there is inadequate evidence to tie our client to the crime. This is where alibi witnesses are helpful. If someone credible said you were with them when the crime was committed, we might defeat a theft charge.
Often, the state relies on grainy security video or shaky eyewitness testimony. But if a weapon was used, such as a knife or gun, witnesses often spend most of their time looking at the weapon. Consequently, they rarely get a good look at the person who committed the theft, so their eyewitness identification is less persuasive than it might initially seem.
It is not theft to use or take possession of goods with the owner’s consent. This issue pops up regularly in theft cases. For example, a person might let her boyfriend borrow her car. When they break up, she expects the car back but doesn’t specifically request it. Instead, she simply accuses her ex-boyfriend of stealing the vehicle and police charge grand larceny under Va. Code § 18.2-95.
Permission to use something can be implied and even non-verbal, so reasonable disagreement sometimes exists about whether our clients were granted permission to take an object. The state must prove this beyond a reasonable doubt, otherwise they cannot get a theft conviction.
Building Your Defense Early: Police Interrogations
Unfortunately, many accused suspects slip up and say something they shouldn’t have when interviewed by the police. Your odds of talking your way out of a criminal charge are close to zero. The police already have some evidence linking you to a crime, which is why they haul you into the station for questioning.
The best course of action is to contact a Virginia theft attorney immediately and to say nothing to the cops. Remember, you have the right to remain silent. You also have the right to be provided with an attorney, but hiring your own lawyer is often the best course of action.
Contact Del Rio Law Today
Our firm will leave no stone unturned as we build a strong defense for our clients. Please contact us today to schedule a free phone consultation.