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Steps to Take When Facing Burglary or Theft Charges

person wearing jeans, black shirt and black gloves in handcuffs

What Should I Do Immediately After Being Accused of Burglary or Theft?

The first step you should take when facing burglary or theft charges is to remain silent. It’s a fundamental right under the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution, often referred to as the right to remain silent. This means you do not have to answer any questions from law enforcement without an attorney present.

Next, you should contact a skilled attorney as soon as possible. In Texas, burglary and theft charges can carry severe penalties, including hefty fines and imprisonment.

How Can I Understand the Charges Against Me?

Understanding the charges against you is crucial in preparing your defense. In Texas, burglary is defined as entering a habitation or building not open to the public, without the owner’s consent, with the intent to commit a felony, theft, or assault. Theft, on the other hand, involves unlawfully appropriating property with the intent to deprive the owner of it.

The severity of the charges can vary depending on the circumstances. For instance, if a weapon was used during the burglary, it could escalate the charge to a first-degree felony. Similarly, the value of the stolen property can significantly impact the severity of a theft charge.

Your attorney can explain the charges and potential penalties in detail, helping you understand what you’re up against. They can also identify any potential weaknesses in the prosecution’s case and develop a strategy to challenge the evidence against you.

What Are My Legal Rights When Facing Burglary or Theft Charges?

When facing burglary or theft charges, you have several important legal rights. Besides the right to remain silent, you also have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford one, the court will appoint a public defender for you. However, it’s often beneficial to hire a private attorney who can devote more time and resources to your case.

You also have the right to a speedy trial. This means the state must bring you to trial within a certain time frame, typically within 180 days of your arrest for a felony charge in Texas.
Another crucial right is the presumption of innocence. This means you are considered innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. It’s the prosecution’s job to prove your guilt, not your job to prove your innocence.

What Should I Do If I Believe My Rights Have Been Violated?

If you believe your rights have been violated during your arrest or subsequent investigation, it’s crucial to inform your attorney immediately. For instance, if law enforcement conducted a search without a warrant or coerced you into making a statement, these actions could potentially violate your Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights, respectively.

Your attorney can assess the situation and, if necessary, file a motion to suppress any evidence obtained illegally. This could significantly weaken the prosecution’s case against you. For example, if the police found stolen property in your home during an unlawful search, your attorney could argue to have this evidence excluded from the trial.

What Should I Do If I’m Wrongly Accused of Burglary or Theft?

Being wrongly accused of a crime like burglary or theft can be a terrifying experience. As mentioned earlier, you should refrain from making any statements to law enforcement without an attorney present. Even if you’re innocent, your words can be misconstrued and used against you.

Next, hire a competent attorney who can help you build a strong defense. They can investigate the circumstances of your case, gather evidence, and work to prove your innocence. For instance, they might be able to use surveillance footage, witness testimonies, or alibi evidence to demonstrate that you were not involved in the alleged crime.

What Should I Do If I’m a Repeat Offender?

If you’re facing burglary or theft charges and have previous convictions, the stakes are even higher. Texas law allows for enhanced penalties for repeat offenders, which could mean longer prison sentences and larger fines.
In such cases, it’s even more critical to have a seasoned attorney on your side. They can scrutinize the evidence against you, challenge the validity of prior convictions, and argue for potentially reducing your sentence.

For example, if you’re accused of stealing a high-value item, but you have a history of kleptomania and are undergoing treatment, your attorney may be able to use your mental health condition to argue for a reduced sentence.

Can I Get a Burglary or Theft Conviction Expunged?

In some cases, you may be able to get a burglary or theft conviction expunged from your record. Expungement is a legal process that effectively erases your conviction, making it as if the crime never occurred.

However, eligibility for expungement in Texas is limited. It’s typically only available for arrests that did not result in a conviction or for convictions that were later overturned on appeal. In some cases, individuals who completed deferred adjudication for a class C misdemeanor may also be eligible.

How Can an Attorney Help Me Fight Burglary or Theft Charges?

An experienced attorney can scrutinize the evidence, question the credibility of witnesses, and challenge the legality of your arrest and any subsequent searches. If you have been accused of burglary or theft, call The Flanary Law Firm today at (210) 899-7566 for a free consultation!