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Legalease
Legalease, Lawyer
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Experience:  15 years exp all aspects of general law
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My sons girl friend (age 24) was surprisingly arrested for

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My son's girl friend (age 24) was surprisingly arrested for 2 counts of felony larceny and breaking and entering two weeks ago. She is very distraught because the crime occurred in an area of the state (2 1/2 hours away) where she no longer lives. She has lived in our area for 3 1/2 years now. The crime consisted of breaking into a convenience store and stealing two cartons of cigarettes and some coins, and we still don't have the specifics of why they think she did it. The crime occurred on April 4th, she was arrested on April 15th, and she had to make her first court appearance on April 19th, but the assistant DA said she didn't have possession of the evidence against our friend at that time. We have secured very good legal representation, but we are trying to learn as much as possible about whether our friend's civil rights have been violated. Rumor has it (from former neighbors at this previous address) that the store owner has a surveillance tape that looks like our friend and one other young female committing the crime, but the offenders can only be seen from the back. I can't confirm any of this information at this time, but I hope to learn more in the future. The next court date is May 23rd. In the mean time, I am curious about "probable cause" and whether or not the sheriff's department have overstepped their authority by arresting our friend. We have gathered much data to support that she was in our part of the state during the days surrounding the commission of the crime (debit card transactions, etc). Also, our young friend has a trust fund that she was able to get a lump sum distribution from last December, so she has a healthy bank account and had no need to steal cigarettes. She is very embarrassed that her arrest has been published in the paper today, and she is very anxious that she will be remembered in this community for a crime she didn't commit. If we have any recourse available to us once she is cleared of these charges, we intend to pursue a civil suit. Interestingly, the Sunday night that she was arrested (between 8:00 - 9:00 p.m.), the detention personnel told us that the arresting sheriff was in route for a "courtesy interview" and was only about 45 minutes away (out of the 2 1/2 hour trip). After much debate, we decided not to grant the "courtesy interview" because our friend had already been arrested and we felt she should have legal representation present. Also, we were not feeling very "courteous" at the time! Is it normal for a sheriff to make a 2 1/2 trip to transport an arrested suspect back to his county, especially considering that it was a Sunday evening and he would not have been able to return home until about 3:00 a.m.? Also, is it normal for the warrant for our friend's arrest to have been processed on a Sunday? The actual date of the arrest warrant was April 15th, a Sunday.

In addition, we wonder if there has been malicious intent with this entire episode because our young friend had female acquaintances at her previous home who were quite jealous of the attention that she received from a young man. One of the girls was a daughter of the sheriff at that time (not the current sheriff - but the former sheriff is now employed in the area as a convenience store security guard - different store than the one robbed). The former sheriff's daughter and the young man were married the weekend before the robbery was committed on April 4th, but the young man's father continues to try to contact our friend through text messages. He keeps saying he would like a current picture of our friend. I have forwarded all of these text messages to our attorney and our friend has not responded and provided any pictures, but it's very frightening to think that these people are plotting against our young friend.

One last weird fact concerning our friend's arrest: Our county received a communication from the former county of residence on Sunday evening, April 15th, to follow up on a "well-being check" for our friend that was phoned in to the former county by a 9-1-1 call. Dispatch responded to the "well-being check" by running a check on our friend to get info and to show up at her current address to check on her. At that time they discovered that a warrant for her arrest had been issued that day, so they verified her well-being and took her into custody. While our friend was in transport to the detention center the sheriff's deputies tried to relay return information about our friend's safety, but the caller who phoned 9-1-1 could not be reached. It seems that the call was a hoax used to "trigger" a quick arrest that evening.

Any advise you could offer would be greatly appreciated.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  Legalease replied 1 year ago.

Hello there

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You have given us a great deal of information -- but does your friend have an alibi in your county for the date and time that the robbery was committed?

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Has anyone else been charged?

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MARY

Customer: replied 1 year ago.

We have the date of the robbery due to the the warrant for arrest - April 4th - but we do not have the time. Yes, she has an alibi. She and my son were together from early evening of the 3rd through mid-day on the 4th. We have debit card transactions that are date and time stamped as well as location stamped (on her account) that show they were eating out, purchasing groceries, etc. late into the evening on the 3rd in our county. I don't know if the robbery happened after mid-night on the 3rd or before midnight on the 4th, but either way we think we have plenty of evidence to show that she was not in the area at that time.


 


Yes, some other young girl has been charged also. We saw her in the courtroom on the date of the first appearance. Our friend remembers her from when she went to high school years ago, but she hasn't had any recent contact with her. She plead "not guilty" and requested a public defender. I'm assuming that she can't possible help my friend due to the fact that she is claiming that she had nothing to do with the robbery also.


 


Thanks Mary.

Expert:  Legalease replied 1 year ago.

Hello again Paige

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There really is no set times that a police dept has to get a warrant -- they can and are issued at all times of the day and night. The police generally operate on their own view of the world -- they are right and everyone else is wrong (my father was a police officer for 30 years and an uncle was chief for a few years, so I know them well). You really need to be silent and wait to see what the DA has for "evidence". My bet is that the case will fall apart as this thing develops so long as all of you and the woman accused stay away from the police unless that video clearly shows your friend jumping up and down and waving at the camera (in other words, if the video evidence is weak, so is the case). Now, here is my handy set of rules for someone involved in such a situation:

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1. The police are not your friends. They will lie, cheat, claim that they have physical evidence when they do not have such evidence -- all to try to get the person they want to convict in jail for the crime (whether that person happens to be guilty or not). And, all of these actions on the part of the police have been upheld as valid investigative techniques by our US Supreme Court. So, your friend (especially) and anyone around her should not feel the need to speak to the police without a lawyer present -- I know that when someone is innocent we have a tendency to want to explain the situation and what happened. What the police live for are confessions (even if they are not true confessions) because it make their life easier and they do not have to do any real detective or forensic work (they can get back to eating donuts much sooner if your friend would just confess, right?).

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2. Lawyers. Many lawyers believe their clients are guilty (we really do not want to know) and it is easier for them to get their client to plead guilty to a lesser offense. They get a fee and they do not have to do much work. If your friend is truly innocent then she should not plead out to anything unless the lawyer is given absolute proof that the DA has a good chance of conviction. Proof is not a grainy video -- even eyewitness testimony has been found to be incorrect in many cases. Fingerprints and DNA are hard proof. If your friend was not there then their case should fall apart -- right now the sheriff and the DA are in the "circle the accused" mode and they are hoping they can get a confession or a statement against interest. When they get frustrated that they cannot get near her without a lawyer, then the holes in their case will start to be exposed. It is a waiting game with them now. If the police come up with nothing but the grainy video and her lawyer still wants her to plead to a lesser offense then it is time to find another lawyer. A trial will be costly (up to about 10K depending upon how much they drag it out OR unless she has a public defender willing to go that distance with her) -- but that amount of money is less costly than being an innocent person sent to jail for a few years and then having to deal with a B&E felony charge on a criminal record that will haunt her for every job interview that she attends for the rest of her life (you cannot have a felony record sealed in NC).

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3. Jail Time. Tell her that when she is in jail (if it comes to spending any additional time in jail at any point in the future) that she is to speak to NO ONE about this incident other than to say that she did not do it. If she gives any information about the crime to any other person incarcerated with her then she runs the risk of seeing that person at a trial claiming that she "confessed" while in the jail -- other inmates do it all the time to get perks in jail or time off their own sentences. The sad fact is that if she gives out any details at all -- like saying that she had been to the convenience store when she lived in town and describing it to another inmate -- then that other inmate will take that info and twist it into putting your friend at the crime scene and confessing to committing the crime. It is usually another inmate who latches on when someone is most vulnerable and seems to lend a sympathetic ear.

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4. Alibi evidence - Ask the lawyer to contact some of the stores visited to see if they have videotape surveillance and if they save it (most malls video everyone walking around). This should be done ASAP in case the stores get rid of the footage quickly. If the lawyer refuses or is slow to do it then hire a private investigator to do it for you. Speed and time are of the essence here. If she can get even one tape that shows her fairly clearly at or around the time of the crime then she has her case won right then and there.

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So, I do not have much more to add here except that the police have a lot of discretion in what games they play with her to try to get her to say what they want her to say and that is what they are doing now. She must be careful to stay away from it. It does sound like small town politics and someone who saw the tape said "hey, that looks like Jane Doe" and that is why she was sought out and charged.

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MARY


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MARY

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