How should I plead to a theft charge if I took items by mistake?

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How should I plead to a theft charge if I took items by mistake?

I drive a truck at night to pick up any scrap metal laying around on the ground or next to dumpsters to recycle and clean up the environment. I drove by Goodwill parking lot and saw some broken metal objects, put them in truck, the police came and told me to put that stuff back. They called the district manger who said that he wants to prosecute me, however, I did not get arrested. Cop filed it as theft on my ticket/court date paper and send my on my way. I have no criminal history. I am not a thief; I just made a mistake. How should I plead on my first hearing?

Asked on October 9, 2010 under Criminal Law, Arizona

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

If you choose go to trial, you effectively stand no chance without a lawyer on your side. Anytime criminal charges are involved it is always advisable to have legal counsel.  An experienced attorney can possibly get the charge dismissed on a technicality or possibly at least get it reduced. Since you are a first-time offender, you may be eligible for something known as "diversion" (or your state's equivalent).  In such a situation, you will plead guilty to the charge, receive a special probation, and upon its successful completion the charge will withdrawn and the case dismissed.  As long as you stay out of any further trouble your record is automatically cleared.  However, diversion is generally allowed only once.  So if you can get beat the charge or get it dismissed you can then be considered a first-time offender if you are ever unfortunate enough to find yourself in a similar situation in the future.  You could then apply for diversion at that time.

Again, seek legal representation.  An attorney in your area can more fully advise you as to all of this.  If money is an issue, see if you qualify for representation by legal aid or see if they can recommend someone to help you.  Also, check if there is a law school nearby to where the arrest took place; they typically run free/low cost clinics that handle these type cases.  Additionally, contact the local Bar Association in the county where the proceedings are being held; they may have a list of attorneys who will take hyour case "pro bono" (for free) or at least for a reduced fee based on hyour income/circumstances.


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