What can I do if I’m being accused of theft?

I am accussed of taking $400 out of my ex-brother-in-laws house. My fingerprints are the only ones on the envelope that contained the money and a neighbor says she can identify me and saw me in his driveway that day. What happens from here? Am i going to jail? Do I need a criminal law attorney? I’m in Chenango, NY.

Asked on September 29, 2011 under Criminal Law, New York


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

You definitely need a criminal defense attorney. Stealing or theft is a crime; you certainly can go to jail for it, and also get a criminal record which can affect you in many regards (e.g. when a background check for a job is done). Fingerprints and a witness placing you at the home could certainly be enough to charge and convict you. What will happen is impossible to say, since much depends on your prior history (is this a first time offense? are you a "pillar of the community"? if you stole the money, do you at least have a reason that would make a judge or jury sympathetic, like needing it for a sick child?), whether there are any weaknesses in the case (is there a plausible reason for the fingerprints? is the neighbor visually impaired or a heavy drinker or known to dislike an you, so her identification of you can be challenged), and other factors specific to your case. Getting experienced criminal defense attorney maximizes your chance of, ideally, having the case dismissed or beating it at trial, or at least of possibly getting to plea to a lesser offense.

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