Defense Strategies in Virginia Theft Cases
The material below is excerpted from an interview with Thomas Soldan, a theft lawyer in Virginia. He answers questions about defense strategies in Virginia theft cases.
How can a lawyer help someone who’s been charged with theft or a similar crime?
Thomas Soldan: In theft offenses, having a lawyer is very helpful. How to legally determine the value of the items allegedly taken is always an issue for prosecutors. Identification of the alleged accused is difficult. There also are legal defenses to be made based on how the accused was confronted by law enforcement and how they were questioned, which is commonly referred to as somebody’s “Miranda rights.” A lot of those rights are of issue when someone is detained on suspicion of a theft offense. Experienced attorneys in these cases can really break down the evidence that the Commonwealth has and what the strengths and weaknesses of the case are.
What are some of the constitutional issues that can arise when dealing with theft crimes?
Thomas Soldan: How the prosecution, the Commonwealth’s Attorney or the law enforcement officer, attains statements from the accused is the most common constitutional issue, in terms of whether or not they attain statements by detaining a person against their will. If a person is under arrest or are exposed to the custodial equivalent of arrest, but a reasonable person in that situation would not necessarily understand that they are under arrest, that would raise an issue. A lot of times somebody will be under an investigation for theft offenses and they are whisked away to a back room, but they don’t really know what is happening. If they believe they are under arrest, it very well may be that there’s a constitutional issue. A well-trained law enforcement officer can use their experience and training to walk the line between getting as much information as possible to help their case without infringing on someone’s constitutional rights. It’s a criminal defense attorney’s job to find out whether or not they stayed on the right side of that line or not.
What strategies or defenses could be used to deal with the prosecution and possibly have the charges dropped?
Thomas Soldan: For both mitigation and argument, certain strategies can be used, but they are unique to each case since every case is nuanced. There are also some limited deferred disposition or diversion programs in Virginia, under certain circumstances. Those are most common in drug offenses.
What constitutes a federal theft offense, and why is having an attorney important in a federal theft case?
Thomas Soldan: The main thing that determines that difference is the victim of the theft offense. Federal theft offenses typically occur either through the Internet against a federal entity or over state lines. If someone is charged with a federal theft offense or they believe they are going to be charged with a federal theft offense, it’s certainly paramount to find an attorney that has experience in federal criminal defense. There are a lot of nuances that are different. Having someone with additional experience in federal criminal procedures is helpful.