How best to handle a felony charge of possession of stolen property?

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How best to handle a felony charge of possession of stolen property?

I have been charged for possession of stolen item because I found a laptop (looked around for the owner) but was unsuccessful, and have used it since. I have no previous records or offenses, this is my first time ever. I am a 3.7 GPA student studying full-time and working full-time trying to put myself through school. Is my life ruined? I need to do all I can to avoid this as my future lies on the line due to one poor judgment of not thinking to turn in the item into the police station. Should I hire a criminal defense lawyer or is the public defender able to fight for me? In Stanford, CA.

Asked on March 17, 2011 under Criminal Law, California

Answers:

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

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Your instincts are right in wanting to retain a criminal attorney.  You are facing felony charges and anytime such charges are involved legal counsel should be retained.  A skilled defense lawyer might be able to get the charge dismissed on a technicality, win an acquittal at trial, or at least have the charge reduced.  Also, know that PD's can be very effective, although over-worked advocates (however there are income eligibility requirements that must be met in order to have one appointed to your case).  If you want private counsel, contact the local Bar Association in the county where the charges were brought; they will have a list of attorneys who practice criminal law (and who might take your case "pro bono" or at least for a reduced fee based on your income/circumstances).

You should also be aware that there is an alternative sentencing program called "diversion" for first-time offenders.  Essentially it is a special probation that can leave a defendent with a clean criminal record.  You would need to speak with your attorney as to whether or not it would be available in this case.


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