Frequently Asked Questions About Theft and Trespass Defense

Many people charged with burglary, robbery, shoplifting, larceny, or trespassing have questions about the charges against them, their rights, the potential penalties they face, and their defenses. Start getting answers to your questions by browsing our commonly asked questions.
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  • What are some possible defenses to theft charges?

    Theft Note With Money in a Back PocketNot all theft crimes are the same in Virginia. There are different elements and legal consequences for theft crimes such as burglary, robbery, and larceny.

    Similarly, not all theft defenses are the same in Virginia. Your defense will depend on the crime you allegedly committed and the particular facts of your case.

    Theft Defenses to Consider

    Our criminal defense legal team will consider the following defenses to determine which ones may apply to your case:

    • Lack of intent. You must have the intent to steal to be convicted of a theft crime. If you had permission to take property or reasonably believed that you had permission to take the property, then you lacked the intent to commit the crime.
    • The property’s value is too low for you to be charged with the crime. Some crimes require the property to be worth a certain amount of money. For example, grand larceny involves stolen property valued at more than $500 or a firearm worth more than $5.
    • There was no violence involved. Some theft crimes are only crimes if you used or threatened to use violence. You should not be convicted of robbery unless prosecutors can prove that you took property while using or threatening force.
    • Entrapment. If someone, such as a police officer, convinced you to steal something that you wouldn’t have otherwise taken, then you may be able to raise an entrapment defense.
    • Duress. If you did not steal property voluntarily, but instead did so because you were threatened with violence or blackmailed into taking the property, then you may have a defense to the criminal theft charges against you.

    One or more of these defenses may apply in your case and may help you avoid significant jail time, fines, and other consequences of a criminal conviction.

    As always, your lawyer will also carefully review the prosecutor’s case to determine if there is any reasonable doubt about any element of the crime.

    Talk to a Virginia Theft Defense Lawyer About Your Defense Strategy

    Our experienced Fairfax theft defense attorneys will thoroughly evaluate the government’s case against you and advise you of your defense options. We will aggressively fight to protect your rights and your future. Call us or fill out our online contact form to have us contact you today to schedule a free consultation.


  • Do I need a lawyer for a first offense shoplifting charge?

    Womain shoplifting in VirginiaAbsolutely.  A shoplifting charge in Virginia, even for a first offense, is a criminal misdemeanor if the value of the items is less than $500.  If the value is $500 or more, it is a felony even for a first offense.  

    Because misdemeanor shoplifting is a Class 1 misdemeanor, it is punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.  More importantly, a shoplifting conviction is a permanent blemish on your record that you will have to deal with for the rest of your life.  Having a conviction record could have significant implications for your future, including loss of employment, loss of a security clearance, inability to obtain employment, difficulty obtaining housing, or deportation or ineligibility for immigration benefits if you are not a U.S. citizen.  

    Some jurisdictions, such as Fairfax County, have a first offender program for misdemeanor shoplifting.  This program requires you to admit your guilt first, after which the court defers entering its finding of guilt and places you on probation for a period of time.  As part of probation, you will be required to complete a shoplifting education course and a certain number of hours of community service, while also remaining of general good behavior.  At the end of the probation period, assuming you successfully completed it and did not violate the law again, the charge is dismissed.  However, it is very important to note that a charge dismissed under this kind of deferral cannot be expunged from your criminal record under current Virginia law.  Moreover, many jurisdictions do not offer first offender shoplifting programs.  

    If you are facing a shoplifting charge, it is critically important to retain an experienced criminal defense attorney to guide you through the process and attempt to obtain the most favorable resolution possible.