In Virginia, grand larceny over $200 is a felony carrying which can carry a penalty of up to 20 years in prison. That said, there is no mandatory jail minimum and what your son would be inclined to accept -- probation, restitution and community service -- is what is generally proposed for first offenders with non-violent theft
offenses. I have no reason to believe it would be unavailable to him. Further, it is also possible that with the assistance of a lawyer, he may be allowed a deferred adjudication option or some other non-incarceratory alternative which could allow him to also keep the theft offense off of his record.
Public defenders are appointed by the court
to people who are without the means to afford a lawyer. The actual eligibility requirements vary from one court jurisdiction to another, If your son is unemployed or lacks a steady income or has an income but has huge student loans or other sorts of debt to pay off, he would likely be eligible.
At his arraignment (first court date) he should plead not guilty. You are correct about that. It is what's done as a matter of form, even when/if a defendant knows that he wants to take a plea as soon as he can get one. By pleading not guilty he keeps all of his rights and options open to him. A not guilty plea can easily be taken back if there's an offer he wants. A guilty plea, on the other hand, is difficult if not impossible to retract. So he should plead not guilty and then tell the judge he is unable to afford a private attorney and he will need a court appointed lawyer. The judge may or may not ask him questions about his income status. If the judge agrees that he cannot afford to retain a lawyer, he will appoint counsel for your son and adjourn the case for the lawyer to be present on the next date. That lawyer can convey and/or explain any offer the prosecution makes him and the up and down side of accepting it.
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This thread will not close and you can always use it to get clarification.This is informational only and is NOT legal advice. There is no attorney-client relationship. You are advised to consult an attorney in your state for specific legal advice.
Edited by FranL on 11/2/2009 at 5:00 PM EST