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Zoey, JD
Zoey, JD, Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 23563
Experience:  Active member of the NYS bar since 1989
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I have been accused of stealing over 4 hundred dollars of

Customer Question

I have been accused of stealing over 4 hundred dollars of clothes from my neighbor. What happened I went to get the mail out of my mail box and there were two bags of things leaning on my door. I do mission work and sometimes if people think I am not home they leave it near my door. There was in one bag that I saw a comforter and i have no idea what was in the other bag. He claims that there were at least 8 bags full of all his clothes. I tryed to explain to him that it was a mistake and had returned all his items. He demanded a check for $438.00 or he would call the police which he did. I am on disability and my son has a learning disability and makes min. wage. The cops came spent two hours searching my apartment and told me I had to pay 78.00 right there and then or go to jail. No ticket was isssued
Submitted: 11 months ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  Zoey, JD replied 11 months ago.

Hello,

Do you believe that the police are going to charge you? What's your question with regard to this incident?

Customer: replied 11 months ago.
I believe that I was going to be arrested.
Expert:  Zoey, JD replied 11 months ago.

Thanks for the reply.

If you are arrested, in Wisconsin a theft offense involving $438 would be a class A misdemeanor. You can see what the state would have to prove against you here in section 943.20 of your law.. The maximum penalty for this crime would be 9 months of incarceration and/or $10,000. In practice, however, although the statute would allow for jail and a very hefty fine, the odds of you going to jail are just about zero. If the police believed you belonged in jail, they'd have taken you in after they spent 2 hours with you.

If you are charged, you should have a lawyer with you when you are in court. You have a mistake defense and didn't have the intent to steal, so you may want to fight this case. In any event, if you can't afford to have a lawyer with you if/when you have to appear, you can just plead NOT GUILTY when arraigned on the charges. If you're living on disability, you would likely be able to qualify for a free lawyer. So after you plead not guilty, you can tell the judge you cannot afford a lawyer and ask him to appoint you a public defender.

Since the police left without charging you, this may be something that the police and the state won't want to prosecute. They may tell your neighbor to sue you in small claims court for the money instead. On the other hand you could still receive a citation or a summons and have to deal with the charge in criminal court.

I don't know what you want to know about this situation, so if I didn't touch on the aspect you were hoping to learn, just reply to me here on this question thread and tell me and I'll be happy to add to my answer.

Customer: replied 11 months ago.
I explained that I took in clothes that were leaning on my apartment. On occassion people leave things for the shelters I work with...All of a suddwhien this guy started screaming that I had taken 8 bags oIf his stuff. Two were there and I only had one that I returned as soon as I realized myy mistake He called the cops, I was told that unless I paid $78.(which was all the money my son and I had. I would go to jail.I never saw the bags that were taken away nor any of the others that were suposed to be in my apartment. I allowed the police to come into my apartment and watched them go thru everything that could be gone thru for almost two hours. My apartment is extremely small. Nothing was found. They told me that unless I wrote a letter of confession with my son Phil signing it that I would go to jail. Something they repeated over and over. Finally I wrote the letter gave them money and conntinue to give them money based on something that is completely untrue and wrong. Each week Notorios Lea takes $10.00 from us and will until he reaches what he claims I took at $438. I never took this the police claimed that they found "evidence" that I had stolen these items but none of the reports showed what they were. They could not have found anything in my apartment because nothing was stolen. It was a very general report of which I had to keep asking for to have this information.I was never given the officers names but got them from the requested report. Neither had name badges on, I never saw a squad car.I give permission to my oldest son Philip XXXX XXX-XXX-XXX or myself XXXX EXXXX XXX-XXX-XXX. Pease advise what I can do....I suffer from sever depression, severe anxiety with diabetes Please I made the mistake of not contacting someone sooner. I have all the reports, paper work and information that can be faxed to anyone.It can be faxed asap. Thank you
Expert:  Zoey, JD replied 11 months ago.

I've already addressed most of this in my first reply to you.

There is nothing you can do right now, unless you can afford to retain a lawyer. Then, although you wouldn't need to hire one now, since there's nothing for him to do yet either, you could at least consult with a couple to find one you like just in case. Apart from this, the matter is in the hands of the state, who may choose to prosecute you, but who haven't done so yet an may not.

Disputes as to facts -- what was in the bags, how many, what you did or didn't do -- are what criminal cases are all about. Even though you may not have intentionally done anything unlawful, the police can still arrest you for this offense if they have probable cause to do so. Probable cause is just a reasonable belief that you may have committed a crime.

It's very easy for the police to find probable cause. They have a complainant, who say that items of his are missing and you took them. And they have you, who have admitted taking some of his property. But there's a big difference between what the state needs to arrest you and what they need to prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. So it's not until you are actually charged that the information you have discussed above will be useful. You need to share it with your attorney because it will set up a "mistake" defense to this charge. And without the intent to take what doesn't belong to you and deliberately deprive the original owner of his property, you can't be convicted of the crime.

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