I was charged with theft of a licence plate, willI have ot go to jail?

I was arrest for having a stolen licence plate on my car. I did not know it was stolen until I was arrested. I was arrested for having one 3 years ago, but was not convicted. I did not steal that one either. I need to know what to do to defend myself. I will pay a fine it I have to but can’t do jail time.

Asked on March 26, 2011 under Criminal Law, North Carolina

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

You probably won't face jail time go to jail for this. However, this is a criminal charge and anytime such charges are involved you should consider retaining legal counsel.  A experienced defense lawyer might be able to get the charge dismissed on a technicality, have the charge reduced, or win an acquittal at trial.  If you are a first-time offender, they may also be able to arrange for something known as "diversion" (or NC's equivalent) which is an alternative sentencing program whereby you would plead guilty to the charge, receive a special probation, and upon its successful completion the charge would be withdrawn and your case dismissed.  Additionally, yourr record should be automatically cleared.  However, diversion is typically only allowed for a first offense.  This means that if you ever again get into trouble it will not be available to you.  That's why if you get an attorney who gets the charge dismissed, you will be eligible for diversion in the future if you should need it (hopefully not).

If money is an issue, see if you qualify for representation by the Public Defender or Legal Aid (there are income limits).  Also, check if there is a law school nearby to where the charges where brought; they typically run free/low cost clinics that handle these type cases.  Finally, you can contact the local Bar Association in the county in question; they may have a list of attorneys who will take your case "pro bono" (for free) or at least for a reduced fee based on your income/circumstances. 


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