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Zoey_ JD
Zoey_ JD, JustAnswer Criminal Law Mentor
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 26821
Experience:  Admitted to NYS Criminal defense bar in 1989. Extensive arraignment, hearing, trial experience.
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My son was arrested for petit theft in Broward count Florida

Resolved Question:

My son was arrested for petit theft in Broward count Florida and his court date is on Monday to go in front of the should he plead? I have advised him to plead no contest and then ask for the diversion program-is this correct? I also then wanted to pay a lawyer to have the record sealed or expunged. Please advise if I am giving him the correct information.
Thanks in advance for your assistance!
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Criminal Law
Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 5 years ago.
Hello Jacustomer,

You are incorrect. The only plea your son should make at his arraignment is a plea of not guilty. He has that right under the Constitution, as he is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Pleading not guilty is the only plea that keeps a defendant's rights open long enough for him to receive legal counsel and understand his rights and choices well enough to make an intelligent decision about his case. A plea of guilty or a plea of no contest will give your son a criminal conviction to put on his record, and there would be no reason for him to put himself in that situation until he knows what he will get as a sentence in exchange for the plea. More simply put, if he pleads no contest and asks for diversion and the DA says no, he's stuck. He's already admitted guilt on the record and the negotiations are out of his control.

I don't know how old your son is, or the value of what he's allegedly shoplifted, but in any case, there is nothing much worse than a theft offense, even on a misdemeanor level, to ruin someone's future. The offense goes directly to dishonesty and lack of character, and employers will simply run away from him. For that reason, he should have a lawyer, who will be in the best position to protect his rights, since criminal cases have lifetime consequences.

If he can afford one, he should have the lawyer with him on his first court date. If he's unable to pay for one, he can plead not guilty and then ask the court to appoint him a public defender.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.

My son is 18 and his court date is this Monday-I did not hire an attorney. Would I be able to get a lawyer at the eleventh hour? Please advise...Lastly, can anyone get a public defender or is based on any kind of income requirements etc.?


Thanks again!

Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 5 years ago.
Hi Lisa,

If he's 18, then your son is facing adult court and a possible criminal record. He can plead not guilty at his arraignment and see what happens from there. That is, if the court then turns around and offers him a pretrial diversion program and that's what he wants, he can take it. If they don't or if they make him no offer at all, he can ask the court to appoint him a public defender. If the judge says no (yes, he has to be financially eligible and if he's living at home with you and your income is not poverty level, he's likely not to get one) he can just ask for a continuance for him to come back with paid counsel. The judge will grant that.

What he must not do is to discuss the facts and circumstances of the case with the court. The only person who he can talk to freely about the incident would be his lawyer. Anyone else can, and will, use it against him.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.

Would the best be to just hire a lawyer? What kind of money are we talking about of course approximately ? Please advise...



Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 5 years ago.
Hi Lisa,

You are not going to have time to hire a lawyer by Monday unless you spot one in the courthouse whose work you like. But yes, I feel it's best that every criminal defendant have a lawyer. Kids particularly are prone to taking the easy way out of some situations, so if left to themselves they will resolve things so that they don't have to spend another day in court and then pay for that for years afterwards.

Lawyers charge based on what kind of time they will put in on a case. If the case is going all the way to trial, that means a lot of in court and out of court work, and even on a misdemeanor level the fee will be in the thousands. If on the other had, all the lawyer has to do is to negotiate an acceptable deal, the case will have a short life span and the charges will be reasonable. For an accurate ballpark figure for your part of the country, call the Florida State Bar Association's Lawyer Referral Service. They are also a great place to start your search for an attorney if you don't know of anyone who practices criminal law.
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