- Deportation & Removal
- Lawful Permanent Residence
- Removal of Condition (I-751)
- Consular Processing
THEFT AND SHOPLIFTING
Conviction or any criminal record involving theft or a theft-related offense can have a very negative impact a good person’s life, career, or immigration status. Crimes involving dishonesty are usually considered to be crimes involving moral turpitude. There is no specific definition of what constitutes a crime involving moral turpitude, but they are generally crimes that reflect poorly on the person’s morality. Nobody wants to trust, befriend or employ a thief or a dishonest person. Other crimes that involve dishonesty or moral turpitude include, but are not limited to, forgery, identity theft, writing bad checks, fraud, possession of stolen goods, burglary, etc. For any person who is not a United States, conviction for theft offense or a crime involving moral turpitude can result in denial of citizenship, deportation or inadmissibility from the United States. Therefore, for a non-citizen of the United States, no theft-related offense or crime involving moral turpitude is too small or too minor to ignore. No non-citizen of the United States should plead guilty or agree to any pre-trial diversion or disposition without first consulting an experienced immigration attorney.
Just like other degrees of crimes, there are classes of theft offenses: first degree theft where the defendant takes property of another worth $1500 or more; second degree theft where the defendant takes property of another worth $250 or more but no more than $1500, and third degree theft, commonly referred to as shoplifting, where the defendant takes property of another worth less than $250.
What Should You Do When Caught Shoplifting.
Being caught shoplifting can be a scary and embarrassing experience, so what should you do in the unfortunate event this happens to you. Simply cooperate with the police officer or store security to avoid making a bad situation worse. Do not argue with the policeman or store security because the more you say, the more information there will be to incriminate you later. However, do not admit to any wrongdoing or answer any questions beyond providing your name and address. If you are uncooperative with the police you could face the following additional consequences above and beyond the underlying charge:
- Failure to cooperate could lead the policeman to decide to book you in jail instead of just giving you a citation and allowing you to go home;
- Failure to cooperate could escalate an already tense situation leading to a confrontation with the police or store security which could lead to physical altercation (and you know who usually wins) and or additional charges of assault and/or obstruction of justice. For example we handled the case of a client who stole a bottle of perfume from TJ Max and when confronted by store security he got into a physical altercation with the store security who suffered minor cuts. This client was later charged with a burglary, which is a serious felony!
- Your lawyer could still later challenge the basis of the charge or the admissibility of any evidence, including the surveillance video or the value of the item allegedly stolen on various grounds;
If you have been charged with theft or other crime involving moral turpitude, there are options to get off or mitigate the penalty:
- Pre-trial motion to dismiss (that the state lacks evidence to prove more or more of the elements of the charge, including probable cause);
- Plea-Negotiation + Reduction (almost every case has a weakness, and a good lawyer can use it to convince the state to reduce the charge or face possible acquittal at trial. In addition the threat of going to trial usually convinces the state to make better offer to reach a disposition and conserve government and court resources);
- Pre-trial Disposition (Stipulated Order of Continuance). Stipulated order of continuance is most commonly offered in shoplifting charges. This means that the court continues the trial date into the future (usually 2-3 years) to allow the defendant to attend victim awareness class, pay some court assessment fees and not get in trouble with law for 1 year or through the continuance period. At the end, if the defendant meets all the requirements set forth in the SOC, the court dismisses the charge. SOC is generally a good outcome, but a non-citizen of the United States should consult an immigration attorney to review the language of the SOC to avoid admission of sufficient facts that could amount to a conviction for immigration purposes.
- Trial. Sometimes, going to trial on a criminal charge may be in the client’s best interest. We help our clients to thoroughly analyze the pros and cons of going to trial on a particular case. We usually consider (1), the strength of the prosecution’s case, i.e, whether there is sufficient or insufficient evidence to prove every element of the charge, (2) the relative value of any offers from the prosecution, (3), the consequences of a conviction for the particular client. For instance, if our client is not a citizen, he or she may not afford the risk of losing at trial because it may have immigration consequences for him or her.
An experienced trial attorney makes a big difference in your case, and you should get as many consultations as possible before choosing an attorney to represent you. We will be honored to help you and give you peace of mind. Contact us at email@example.com