What Happens If You Get Charged with Larceny?
In New Mexico, larceny is a misdemeanor. However, that does not mean it is something you should not take seriously. Instead, one of the first things you do should be to contact an attorney.
Theft crimes are serious charges, and when you hear the term “larceny,” it really refers to theft or stealing property that does not belong to you. Therefore, if you take any property, money, or other items that hold value from another person, you have committed larceny.
The Various Classifications of Larceny – and How They Might Affect You
New Mexico, just like other states, has classifications of their theft crimes. The classifications have their own penalties and fines attached, with the more serious classes having the harshest penalties of all.
These are grouped by:
- Misdemeanor Petty Theft
- Misdemeanor Theft
- Fourth-Degree Theft
- Third-Degree Felony Theft
- Second-Degree Felony Theft
Depending on which classification you are charged with, you may face anywhere from a fine and a few months in jail to nine years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Do Not Forget You Have Civil Penalties, Too
What most defendants do not realize is that they do not just have criminal penalties in theft cases. They also have civil penalties, which might cost even more than the fine associated with the criminal case. When you steal something from another person, you may be required to pay the retail value of the item you stole – unless it is recovered and returned intact.
Likewise, you could be forced to pay punitive damages, which cannot exceed $250.
Then, you may need to pay for the store owner’s costs to file a lawsuit against you along with any attorneys’ fees they encounter as part of their civil suit against you.
Prior Convictions Can Harm Your Case
If you have been convicted of theft crimes in the past, another theft charge will not affect you as much as they would in other criminal cases. However, the judge will still consider it when they think about releasing you on bail, what your potential penalties should be, and even the fine amount – especially when these are left to the judge’s discretion.
Getting Larceny Charges Dropped – Can You Walk Away?
One question you might have is whether or not you can work out a deal or have the charges dismissed so that you are not dealing with a theft conviction for the rest of your life. However, the answer is not that simple. A larceny arrest is stressful, and the idea of spending time in jail can be even more so.
In some cases, you can have your charges dismissed or even reduced, but that depends on the situation. The only way to increase the chances that your charges are dropped – or at least reduced to something that will not impact you as greatly the rest of your life – is to have a good criminal defense attorney representing your case.
The Right Defense Strategy Is the Best Bet You Have
The best way to avoid a conviction, or to have the charges dismissed, comes down to representation. You want an attorney that will use the right defense strategy for your case. Attorneys do not come up with strategies on a whim. Instead, they consider the factors of your case, the evidence against you, and they look for opportunities where they can swing the odds in your favor.
Some strategies your attorney might use include:
- Stating that you owned the item you supposedly stole. One of the best defenses out there is that you cannot be arrested for stealing what you own – but you must prove you have ownership of the item you allegedly stole. Likewise, if you can show you had good faith to believe that the property was yours, the court may dismiss the charges.
- Proving that you were forced to steal and entrapped into committing the crime. If you were coerced into stealing something by law enforcement as a way to arrest you for doing so, then your attorney might be able to utilize an entrapment defense. Claiming entrapment is not enough. Instead, your attorney must have concrete evidence that law enforcement had some way to force you or push you into stealing the item you were accused of stealing, and that you would not have done so without their coercion.
- You had the owner’s permission to take the property. Perhaps you did not take something that was yours, but the owner of that property permitted you to take it. In this case, having the owner swear that they allowed you to take their property could be all it takes to have your case dismissed.
Why Do You Need an Attorney?
You might see that you are being charged with a misdemeanor and assume you do not need to pay for a criminal defense attorney. However, a misdemeanor for larceny is serious. You still face a possible jail sentence, fines, the possibility of civil lawsuits, and having a permanent criminal record.
When you apply for a job, you may have to disclose that you were convicted of a crime. Likewise, many retailers and jobs dealing with merchandise will not hire you if you have been convicted of any type of larceny or theft crime in the past – regardless of how long ago it was.
If you have been arrested for larceny, guilty or not, do not try to strike a deal. Instead, contact an attorney to explore your options and see if they can at least get the charges against you reduced. Also, an attorney will evaluate your case and see if there is enough evidence for a conviction. They may even have an opportunity to get your charges dismissed.