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Zoey_ JD
Zoey_ JD, JustAnswer Criminal Law Mentor
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 17406
Experience:  Admitted to NYS Criminal defense bar in 1989. Extensive arraignment, hearing, trial experience.
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Hi, I have a serious problem here. So this is what happened

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Hi, I have a serious problem here. So this is what happened : I went to mall for shopping in NY in H.M. and I paid my clothes but I stole some clothes (under 50) on the way out. And they caught me. I was given a appearance ticket to court. And I went that day but the judge gave me 3 paper (1st is misdemeanor information which talks about what I did (but on that paper it says I stole $57 clothes but i clearly remember I stole only $47); 2nd one is about the next court date which is one month later and interview schedule for public defender. 3rd one is just a duplicate of first one.). and on the way out of the court, I was brought to do the finger print.

I originally thought I just need to go to court and plead guilty and pay some funds and there wont be record. but since I did finger print and was told to find a public defender, I feel like this is very serious. Also, I am currently apply for student visa and I am leaving to another country just the day after the next court date. Can anyone tell me what is this public defender thing all about ? And if I got an public defender to defend my case, will I have any criminal record that affects my visa ? And do I just need to get a public defender and go to court ? Or I have to do aomething more after the court ? Because I have to leave the day after the court and everything has to be done before I leave.

Please help me out! I really appreciate it!!!
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Criminal Law
Expert:  AlexiaEsq. replied 1 year ago.
Hi, my name is XXXXX XXXXX I thank you for your inquiry. I have been practicing law for 19+ years and look forward to assisting you.

Hi, I have a serious problem here. So this is what happened : I went to mall for shopping in NY in H.M. and I paid my clothes but I stole some clothes (under 50) on the way out. Ouch, troubling impulse?

 

And they caught me. I was given a appearance ticket to court. And I went that day but the judge gave me 3 paper (1st is misdemeanor information which talks about what I did (but on that paper it says I stole $57 clothes but i clearly remember I stole only $47) Super! You will want to get proof of what those items cost - such as having someone go there and buy exactly the items in question, retain receipt AND the tags on thoe specific items.... It is very possible that the complainant store fudged that part of the complaint to get you OVER a threshhold and make it more difficult for you.


; 2nd one is about the next court date which is one month later and interview schedule for public defender. If you can put in some overtme and work to avoid having to use a PD, I'd urge you to get your own attorney. PD generally means you are persuaded to plead guilty even if the state lost the evidence and/or can't prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt because it doesn't have admissible evidence (only inadmissiable, for example).

 

3rd one is just a duplicate of first one.). and on the way out of the court, I was brought to do the finger print. That makes sense.

I originally thought I just need to go to court and plead guilty and pay some funds and there wont be record. There is ALWAYS a record of charges of a crime. And of course if you please guilty, then it is more than a mere charge and turns into a conviction.

 

but since I did finger print and was told to find a public defender, I feel like this is very serious. Of course! If you had a clean record before, if you are convicted either based on plea by you OR by trial resulitng in conviction, you will now have a criminal record reflecting theft - and you will likely be unable to secure suitable employment for your adult life - beyond, say, waiting tables or other manual jobs that may not require background check. As such, I do urge you to take it very seriously and take all measures within reason to avoid a criminal conviction.

 

Also, I am currently apply for student visa and I am leaving to another country just the day after the next court date. Can anyone tell me what is this public defender thing all about ? The PD works for the State, just like the prosecutor. Although he has an attorney duty to his client, in a practical reality, rarely to PD's try the case, instead they usually urge their clients to plead to something less than the original charge so they will not have to spend time trying the case. Sometimes pleading is necessary and smart - other times,the person is actually innocent and pushed into pleading guilty to save the PD, prosecutor, and Court, time and expense of giving him a trial.

 

And if I got an public defender to defend my case, will I have any criminal record that affects my visa ? If you are convicted (including if you get a conviction because you willingly plead guilty to something) yes, that is possible - BUT, is what you will want to discuss with your immigration attorney.

 

And do I just need to get a public defender and go to court ? Or I have to do aomething more after the court ? You will have to do whatever it is that you are sentenced to. If you go to court and plead not guilty, you will have a new date for a trial, so you will have to stick around for that (in theory).

 

Because I have to leave the day after the court and everything has to be done before I leave. This could definitely put a cog in your wheel if not handled perfectly, so I do urge you to use those funds of yours for a private criminal attorney who can ensure that either your pleading of guilty results in no jail time and no community service, (maybe just a big fine or delayed jail time/community service, for when you return). Since a PD tends to work WITH the State, at least to some degree, you are less likely to get him fighting very hard on the little details, like your travel plans. This is my opinion of course, and I am sure PDs around NY would expressly disagree.

Please help me out! I really appreciate it!!! Anytime. To repeat, if you can get an attorney that can ensure you can keep a crime off of your record, I urge you to do it. Your student schooling and VISA will end up being a waste of your money, very possibly, if you have to go through life with a criminal conviction record for theft. Jobs involving money management will likely be off limits to you, and most major employers now require passing a criminal background check to even remain in their applicant pool - much less get the job. What you do now can effect the rest of your career and ability to earn income.

 

Good luck!

 

I hope this helps! My goal is to provide you with excellent and accurate service – if you feel you have gotten anything less, please reply back, I am happy to address follow-up questions. Kindly rate me "excellent" when you are done. I look forward to assisting you in the future, should you have legal questions.

Sincerely,

Alexia Esq.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Hi, I understood what you said


But I also found out that Public Defender is not that bad.


I dont know how much it is to hire an attorney, but I heard that it is really expensive(like $1500). Is that true? Can you tell me where to find if i really need to find one? At this point, I think I'm not able to pay for the attorney.. So I really want to get a help from the public defender.


Also, after I get the public defender and go to the court, what am I gonna do at the court? I heard about the diversion program, which is for generally first-time offenders with opportunities for alternatives to the traditional criminal justice process of ordinary prosecution.


What is that really about? Do I have to do some community service or something?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.

For the item I stole, I dont remember the item so I cant get someone to buy it. but I did remember the manager of the store took pictures of the items and he must know the price. do you think it is ok to ask him the price or he wont even tell me ?? I feel like he just want to get me in more trouble. and also I am not allowed to get into the store anymore. and I dont think he will give information to anyone :(

Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Hi, are you working on my question ?


I am sorry but I am so worried.


Could you please reply me ASAP ?

Expert:  AlexiaEsq. replied 1 year ago.
Hi again, and thank you for your follow up. Sorry I wasn't here when you had the opportunity to come back and review my answer - I can only wait so long, but I do thank you for your patience on this Sunday afternoon. With regard to your follow up:

Hi, I understood what you said


But I also found out that Public Defender is not that bad. If you say so. Perhaps you have one you know personally that will go to bat for you (as it should be).


I dont know how much it is to hire an attorney, but I heard that it is really expensive(like $1500). Is that true? Yes.

 

Can you tell me where to find if i really need to find one? The yellow pages, google, lawyer.com, etc. You want to look under 'criminal defense.'

 

At this point, I think I'm not able to pay for the attorney..That is too bad. And I understand. If you can get a consult for next to nothing, consider it. You may find that the cost of the attorney is way less than the cost of not having a vigorous defense.

 

So I really want to get a help from the public defender. Then you must do what you must do, of course.


Also, after I get the public defender and go to the court, what am I gonna do at the court? It depends on what happens. If you choose to not plead guilty and try the case, it will be a bit protracted, likely. If you and the State can agree to a deal where you plead to something LESS than the full charge, then it will depend on what that deal is, if the Judge accepts the plea, and what he sentences you too. He does usually accept the prosecutor's recommendation of sentence, since that is how agreements can be made with defendents (and they'd fail if the Judge always reneged).

I heard about the diversion program, which is for generally first-time offenders with opportunities for alternatives to the traditional criminal justice process of ordinary prosecution. Typically, that means you can conditionally escape the conviction of the charge you are agreeing to be convicted under if you screw up whatever parameters they set for you - you are "diverted" from the normal prosecutorial course, like taking a left at the forst, and only come back into the full fledged prosecution for all charges IF you break the conditions. It is better than a conviction, usually, because if you were do do the offence again, you'd still be a "first offender" not a 'second offender' for sentencing purposes - THIS IS HUGE, because 2nd offenses often include WAY stiffer sentences, such as mandatory jail time, etc., although the fact that you did get a conditional discharge will be information that remains part of your record. It does not typically erase the arrest, which becomes part of your criminal history or the result, but it is not the same as a conviction either. I'd definitely use it if I could, if the state will agree. Short of some bad behavior on your part (which you don't mention), or priors, it is often on the table in some form.


What is that really about? Do I have to do some community service or something?Often, yes. Fines, community service, and good behavior for X months or years. Upon completion of the "conditions" the matter is discharged. It is not as good as a dismissal of the charges altogether (such as if the State's evidence is not so great and it is willing to dismiss, or your attorney successfully files a motion for dismissal stating that the evidence, no matter how you look at it, can not be found by any reasonable fact finder to prove guilt of the exact charge beyond a reasonable doubt). But it tends to beat an outright conviction for that second offender reason noted above. Still costs a bundle though.


I hope this helps! My goal is to provide you with excellent and accurate service – if you feel you have gotten anything less, please reply back, I am happy to address follow-up questions. Kindly rate me "excellent" when you are done. I look forward to assisting you in the future, should you have legal questions.

Sincerely,

Alexia Esq.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Hi, what you said is so complicated, I don't really understand. So if I can meet all the condition such as maintining good behavior in 6 months, I will not have Any criminal record ? I am 100% sure I won't do that again so should I just depend on that program ? Is it possible to move the court date ?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Relist: Answer came too late.
Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 1 year ago.

Hello Jacustomer,

I am a NYC attorney and perhaps I can make this more clear to you.

Petit Larceny in NY is a class A misdemeanor, which carries a maximum sentence of a year's jail's time. As such, it is a crime of moral turpitude and a potentially deportable offense. It makes no difference whether the property that you are alleged to have taken is worth $5 or $55. I don't know where your previous attorney got the notion that there was a $50 minimum threshhold for a shoplifting offense. That's simply not so. Stealing any property in NYS is at least an A misdemeanor.

So you are right to be concerned. The reality is, however, that you are not going to go to jail over this offense and, in fact, if this is your first contact with the criminal justice system, you will be able to get out of this mess without a criminal record. It is standard for the DA to reduce these charges to a Trespass (which is a violation and not a crime) or to a Disorderly Conduct, (which is also a violation and not a crime). It is also possible to get the matter adjourned in contemplation of dismissal, which is a conditional dismissal similar to the diversion disposition you mentioned. (New York does not have diversion programs except for felony drug cases in Treatment Court).

If you find that your lawyer is responsive to your needs, stick with him or her. There's absolutely no guarantee that a paid lawyer will be better than the one you've got, and public defenders are criminal court specialists. Some public defenders are exceptional lawyers. Some private lawyers don't know what they are talking about. The reverse, of course is also true. But most lawyers, either public or private, are at least competent and will know what to do with a shoplifting case.

Public defenders are very experienced and they know the worth and the weight of the cases that they are dealing with. They try plenty of cases should you want to risk a misdemeanor conviction and fight this all the way, and/or they can bargain this down to something that won't cost you your immigration status, if you want them to negotiate a deal.

Incidently, as you have admitted that you did steal the clothes, you can expect that if you go to trial on the case, that the state will be abke ti prove the charges against you. That would be fatal to you. If you get a deal to a violation, on the other hand, it will seal by operation of law in a year and be off of your record -- so long as you do not get in any further legal difficulty. And while you would have to disclose the disposition to Immigration for visa purposes, the conviction on something less than a crime would generally not be any impediment to your being able to study here.

In short, work with your present lawyer. See if he can get you the ACD, (conditional dismissal), which doesn't even require you to admit guilt and which seals deeply in 6 months. But if the DA and judge will not agree to it, then the violation -- so long as you don't admit on the record to having stolen anything -- should not bar you from your desire to study here.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Hi, could you please explain more about conditional dismissal ?
And is it possible that I have to do something more(for example, community service. Etc ) after court date ? (Because I am going to another country the day after it. )
Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 1 year ago.
Hi,

An ACD is an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal. The case gets dismissed without you having to plead guilty to it, but it can reopen again if you get in trouble with the law again within 6 months. If you don't get in further trouble, the case seals tightly by operation of law in 6 months, meaning you don't have to go back to court and get that done. Once it's sealed, all records of the case are destroyed and while your court file would not be destroyed it would be sealed and inaccessible except via a court order.

Generally, the ACD comes with some community service and/or an anti-theft case, but if you can establish that you are leaving the country (show your tickets, etc), your lawyer may be able to get you a fine instead, since you won't be around to get in further trouble here. It's not unheard of at all under these circumstances.

Not all judges will allow an ACD for a shoplifting offense. The next best thing would be the plea of guilty to a criminal violation. That's less than a misdemeanor, and not itself a crime. You could get a fine for that, or a conditional discharge (go home, behave yourself and don't get in any more trouble for a year). A fine is better, especially if your lawyer would be able to ask the judge for the record to be sealed upon payment. Otherwise at the end of a year (or whenever it's sealed) all records EXCEPT the court file are destroyed. So this is not as deeply sealed as an ACD and someone really looking for it would find it, but it would still show as a violation and not a crime.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Hi, thanks for your quick answer! Just for double check, you mean that best thing I can do is to get a ACD. But if I can't get a ACD, I should get a criminal violation which not seals as deep as ACD but it only shows violation not crime. Did I understand it right ?
But what if the judge doesn't allow me to plea guilty for criminal violation?
Is there other way ?
Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 1 year ago.
Hi,

Your understanding of what I told you is correct.

I have handled countless petit larceny cases, and while I obviously can't give any customer a guarantee without seeing the criminal court complaint and talking to the DA, it is almost a certainty that you'll get an offer to a violation. Just be careful not to say on the record that you stole any property as part of the taking of that plea.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thanks for replying! What do you mean by "just be careful not to say on the record that you stole any property as part of the taking of that plea" ? Does it mean that I should not say I stole something? But I did steal :(
Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 1 year ago.

Hi,

If you are not a US citizen, you should not admit you stole as part of the taking of this plea. Immigration will not be happy with that. This is not the problem it sounds like it may be. Chances are, all you'll have to say if you plead to a violation is that you were disorderly or that you trespassed. Just speak to your lawyer about this and say that for immigration purposes you shouldn't allocute to a theft.

Yes you did steal, but remember you will not be pleading guilty to a theft but to trepass or disorderly conduct. So you don't want to raise the theft at all on the record during the plea if you are not a US citizen. Just tell your lawyer that. He likely already knows and it's not usually a problem. I am being overcautious just so that you know about it. If they ask you to admit to stealing as part of a plea to a violation, just turn to your lawyer and remind him of your immigration status. It should not then be a problem.

Zoey_ JD, JustAnswer Criminal Law Mentor
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 17406
Experience: Admitted to NYS Criminal defense bar in 1989. Extensive arraignment, hearing, trial experience.
Zoey_ JD and 8 other Criminal Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 1 year ago.


Thanks to remind me that !!!
I think I will have more question later.
Can I ask u questions few days later after I see the public defender?
Your answers are so helpful to me
Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 1 year ago.
Hi,

You can always ask a follow up on this thread or if you have a new question post a new one to my attention by putting "For FranL" as the first words of your question. That will put my name in the subject heading of your question where I can't miss it.
Expert:  AlexiaEsq. replied 1 year ago.
Hello again, when you get the chance, if you could kindly correct the derogatory rating you may have erroneously clicked on under one of my answers prematurely, it will be appreciated. And of course, any follow up to my answer points remains very welcome, should you need it.

Generally, what is done is that we engage in follow up to get any needed clarification if something is confusing (and in the law, it can understandably be so!) You had left the site for a couple of hours, (see above!) and I had to take a break after a LONG Sunday of work, when it was clear you had left to enjoy your day. Thank you for understanding.

It is no problem that you too apparently needed a break, but the poor rating that showed up under my Answer seems unintended and inapplicable, under these circumstances. It must have been a mistake on your part, is that right? I also see that a colleague decided to assist you in the interim before I could get back online - and that is no problem, but I do ask that you correct the rating if it was in error in order that I may assist you readiliy in the future, particularly if my other colleagues are offline, as we must be from time to time, and you are in need of information right away.

Thank you and I hope you have a great week.

Sincerely,
Alexia Esq.

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