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Ely, Counselor at Law
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 102136
Experience:  Private practice with focus on family, criminal, PI, consumer protection, and business consultation.
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Just wanted to know that I was accused of theft in the third

Customer Question

Hi there! Just wanted to know that I was accused of theft in the third degree. Am I going to jail for that
JA: What state are you in? It matters because laws vary by location.
Customer: Washington
JA: Has anything been filed or reported?
Customer: Yes
JA: Anything else you want the lawyer to know before I connect you?
Customer: I went to Costco with a family member to buy groceries and while I was doing shopping he came out with headphones and put it in the car and came back inside. After our shopping we walked outside and one guy stopped me and told me did I take anything from the store and I told him the truth. I'm a member at Costco and the other guy is not. Now they are taking me to court for something I did not do.
Submitted: 7 months ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  Ely replied 7 months ago.

Hello and welcome to JustAnswer. Please note: This is general information for educational purposes only and is not legal advice. No specific course of action is proposed herein, and no attorney-client relationship or privilege is formed by speaking to an expert on this site. By continuing, you confirm that you understand and agree to these terms.

I am sorry to hear about this situation. Please tell me:

1) Do you have a criminal record? Or no, and this is your first alleged offense?

2) Have you gone to Court yet, or not? If not, when is the court date?

This is not an answer, but an information request. I need this information to answer your question. Please reply, so I can answer your question. Thank you in advance.

Customer: replied 7 months ago.
No criminal record and tomorrow morning is my court case
Expert:  Ely replied 7 months ago.
Thank you. One second please while I type all of my answer out...
Expert:  Ely replied 7 months ago.
You are charged with third degree theft with is a GROSS MISDEMEANOR under Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9A.56.050. This is punishable by up to 1 year in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. This would be at the discretion of the Court if you are found guilty or plead guilty.
First of all, understand how this works. This will be your first hearing and an ARRAIGNMENT, where one pleads GUILTY or NOT GUILTY. If someone in your situation pleads guilty, you may be sentenced or at the very least the case will have been over with you being convicted. Ergo, individuals in your situation generally always want to plead NOT GUILTY and the case will be reset to give you time to find counsel. Actually, most courts do not even GIVE you an option to plead UNTIL you have counsel so the case may be reset to get you to find counsel without you even having an ability to plead yet.
These hearings will reset several times to allow your attorney and the prosecutor (DA) to discuss a plea deal. Normally, the case is reset about 3-4 times before you have to make a choice:
1) plead guilty and simply have the Court sentence you (not recommended);
2) take the matter to trial and risk either being convicted and sentenced, or, acquitted of charges (fairly risky); or
3) make a plea deal with the DA.
About 85% or more of such charges end with a plea deal.
The DA's leverage is that possible certainty that you would be found guilty if he takes this to trial. Your leverage is not only possibility of being found not guilty if taken to trial, but also the pressure exerted unto the DA if the defense pushes for trial, which means man hours, preparation, and a lot of court time. Since the DA often juggles dozens (if not hundreds) of cases at once, they often agree to a plea deal which may include:
-a pleading of guilty for a lesser offense and straight probation/parole;
-a deferred sentence, which is an agreement for first-time offenders for non-violent and low-level crimes wherein if you agree to participate in a program, pay a fine, do some community yours, etc, the prosecutor will drop the charges against the you once the program is completed successfully; or
-another type of plea deal favorable to you.
A deferred sentence option is very likely to be offered, so it may not even end up with a conviction.
As stated before, if you do not have an attorney, you may typically ask for a reset to find counsel. If you cannot afford counsel, then you may say that to the Court, and then the Court will question your finances to determine if a court-appointed attorney may be provided.
I hope this helps and clarifies. Please use the SEND or REPLY button to keep chatting, or please RATE when finished. You may always ask follow ups at no charge after rating. Kindly rate my answer as one of TOP THREE FACES/STARS and then SUBMIT, as this is how experts get credit for our time. Rating my answer the bottom two faces/stars (or failing to submit the rating) 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 with a positive rating.
Expert:  Ely replied 7 months ago.
Hello again. This is a courtesy check in to see if you needed anything else in regards ***** ***** question because you never responded or replied positively. I am simply touching base. Let me know. Thanks!