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Ely
Ely, Counselor at Law
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 86628
Experience:  Private practice with focus on family, criminal, PI, consumer protection, and business consultation.
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I was issued a summons to appear in court on the charges of

Customer Question

I was issued a summons to appear in court on the charges of theft by check. This is my first offense. How do I plead?
Submitted: 12 months ago.
Category: Criminal Law
Expert:  Ely replied 12 months ago.
Hello friend. My name is Ely, and welcome to JustAnswer. Please note: (1) this is general information only, not legal advice, and, (2) there may be a slight delay between your follow ups and my replies.

I am very sorry for your situation.

How do I plead?

NOT GUILTY. This is because if you plead guilty, the matter is automatically over before you even can make a case for yourself. If this is your first criminal charge - and it sounds like it is - you have options.

Understand that the hearing coming up is called a "setting," and it is one of SEVERAL that you will have. The court will reset your matter several time s(3-5) to allow you to negotiate with the prosecutor (called an assistant district attorney, or ADA) for a "plea deal." Then, either a plea deal is struck, or you go to trial.

Prosecutor's Leverage
If this case gets to trial, the prosecutor is likely to get a conviction if you are indeed guilty. However...

Your Leverage
The prosecutor is normally very backed up. They are handling literally dozens of cases at once. Setting a matter for trial - jury trial, more so - is a serious issue since they have little time to prepare, file the proper motions, and generally make room for the trial to happen. They also do not want to spend time on a relatively minor case, which yours is.

Negotiation
Recall how I had mentioned negotiation as one of the options. Very often, individuals in your situation are given a "plea deal," if they have little/no criminal record. Individuals in your situation are very likely to be offered two possibilities:

1. Deferred Adjudication (which dismisses the charge if you simply are not charged/convicted of anything else in 6 months to a year, but, pay court costs); or
2. A plea deal for something else.

Allow your attorney to negotiate for you. May I recommend the Texas Bar referral program - here. The attorneys are vetted and qualified. You should be able to find an attorney you are confident with and whom you can trust, and who is available ASAP.

But again, at your first hearing, you want to plead NOT GUILTY.

I hope this helps and clarifies. Good luck.

Please note: I aim to give you genuine information and not necessarily to tell you only what you wish to hear. Please, rate me on the quality of my information and do not punish me for my honesty. I understand that hearing things less than optimal is not easy, and I empathize.

Gentle Reminder: Please use the REPLY button to keep chatting, or RATE my answer when we are finished. Kindly rate my answer as one of the top three faces and then submit, as this is how I get credit for my time with you. Rating my answer the bottom two faces does not give me credit and reflects poorly on me, even if my answer is correct. I work very hard to formulate an informative and honest answer for you; please reciprocate my good faith. (You may always ask follow ups at no charge after rating.)
Customer: replied 12 months ago.

I did write the check and it did not clear the bank. So, I am guilty, however, it was not my intent for the check to not clear. How can I plead not guilty?

Expert:  Ely replied 12 months ago.
Friend,

Thank you for your follow up.

So, I am guilty, however, it was not my intent for the check to not clear. How can I plead not guilty?

The Judge is not going to "question" your plea. Even the most "guilty" person can plead NOT GUILTY. This is your right. And when you do, this will throw the case into a long setting/re-setting sequence wherein you can negotiate a plea deal with the prosecutor. The prosecutor does not want to go to trial over such a minor matter, and often, a deferred adjudication is offered (in fact, I am fairly sure of it).

However, if you plead guilty, you are convicted then and there.

You can plead not guilty, and individuals in your situation want to, in order to have a chance to plea bargain your case, at least. Do not worry, you are in every right to plead not guilty and no one is going to question it. It is all part of the "process."

Gentle Reminder: Please use the REPLY button to keep chatting, or RATE and submit your rating when we are finished.
Customer: replied 12 months ago.

Thank you, that makes sense. This is my first offense and I have already paid the amount of the returned check and the fee as well as I have taken the "Bad Check Class" recommended by the Hot Check Division of Travis County. What is the punishment that I could be looking at?


And, do you think that I need an attorney to represent me?

Expert:  Ely replied 12 months ago.
Hello,

I really believe that this will end in a deferred adjudication offer from the ADA, and if completed successfully, no conviction.

What is the punishment that I could be looking at?

The offense of "issuance of bad check" is a Class C misdemeanor. An individual adjudged guilty of a Class C misdemeanor shall be punished by a fine not to exceed $500.

However, if this is IF you are found guilty - worst case scenario.

And, do you think that I need an attorney to represent me?

Yes. The ADA may refuse to negotiate with you directly, or, may try to take advantage of you. It depends on the ADA. They do not have your best interest in mind! So it never hurts to try at first setting, but, if they refuse or their offer seems too hard to accept, it may be prudent to retain counsel to do this for you. This is simply to make sure you get the best deal possible.

Gentle Reminder: Again, surely you prefer that I be honest in my answer – please remember that rating negatively due to receiving bad news still hurts the expert – it is simply the way that the system is set up. Please use REPLY button to keep chatting, or RATE my answer when we are finished. (You may always ask follow ups free after rating.)
Customer: replied 12 months ago.

So, I can go to the first court date set and plead not guilty and if they do not want to negotiate or their offer is not suitable then how do I let them know that I want to wait and use legal counsel?


 


Also, is "issuance of bad check" and "theft by check" the same thing?
I was under the impression that "theft by check" was different and possibly included jail time?

Expert:  Ely replied 12 months ago.
So, I can go to the first court date set and plead not guilty

...right...

f they do not want to negotiate or their offer is not suitable then how do I let them know that I want to wait and use legal counsel?

Actually, on the first setting, they sometimes will AUTOMATICALLY reset you if you do not have an attorney, even without taking your plea. On the second setting, if still no attorney, they can take your plea, and then will reset again to give you time to find counsel. You can simply let them know as well that you are looking for counsel at reset and/or upon pleading not guilty. The system is set up to allow you time to find an attorney, do not worry.

Also, is "issuance of bad check" and "theft by check" the same thing?
I was under the impression that "theft by check" was different and possibly included jail time?


How much was the check for?
Customer: replied 12 months ago.

$321.00

Expert:  Ely replied 12 months ago.
Thank you. Since this is at that level, it may be a Class B Misdemeanor. Class B misdemeanor is punished up to 180 days in jail and up to a $2,000 fine or probation.

Since you face time in jail if convicted, the Court should assign you counsel if you cannot afford it.

But again, you are very, very likely going to come out of this with a deferred adjudication, especially since you have done all these steps even before your first setting which reflects very well on you.

Gentle Reminder: Please use the REPLY button to keep chatting, or RATE and submit your rating when we are finished.
Customer: replied 12 months ago.

Typically how much would it cost to hire an attorney to represent me? I would rather not have to hire one, but I also do not want this to drag out.

Expert:  Ely replied 12 months ago.
Friend,

For a mid-class misdemeanor such as this, a typical attorney should charge about $1,500 to $2,250, but it depends, and many do take payment plans - ask them.

If you DO NOT wish to go to trial, then you can possibly even get someone for a $1,000 or so - make clear that the payment would not include trial representation.

Gentle Reminder: Please use the REPLY button to keep chatting, or RATE and submit your rating when we are finished.

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