If my 19 year old college freshman got caught stealing clothes from a department store, should I hire an attorney or should she accept a court appointed attorney?

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If my 19 year old college freshman got caught stealing clothes from a department store, should I hire an attorney or should she accept a court appointed attorney?

She regretfully realizes she committed an illegal act but did not realize magnitude of consequences. She’s a really good kid, never been in trouble before, did a bad thing. I don’t want her life destroyed by even a misdemeanor conviction but I don’t know if that will be remotely possible. What can be done to look good to the judge (job, school, etc.)? Also, is it possible to avoid conviction of misdemeanor by doing community service and/or paying a hefty fine?

Asked on May 9, 2015 under Criminal Law, Virginia

Answers:

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

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

The charge in this case is most likely a misdemeanor, a criminal offense. And any time a person is facing such a charge, they should retain legal representation. An experienced criminal attorney might be able to get the charge thrown out on a technicality, get it reduced to a lesser charge or win an acquittal. The fact is that a criminal record can have liftetime consequences; among other things it can effect employment, professional licenses and student loans.

As for hiring a lawyer or getting one appointed by the court, the defendant must be income eligible for the latter and I don't know what your daughter's financial position is. If you do need/want to retain private representation, you should retain an attorney who practices in the area of where all of this occurred. They can use their contacts at the local court to your daughter's best advantage. In fact, if she has an otherwise clean criminal record, she will probably qualify for a first-time offenders program. If so, upon successful completion, she should be left without any criminal history record. Again, speak to a lawyer concerning her situation. 


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