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I just got arrested / cited for an Oregon theft charge. What happens now?
If you were arrested for a misdemeanor theft charge, you were probably given a citation or release agreement directing you to appear in court at a future date. If you were arrested for a felony theft charge, you may have been given a citation or you may have been booked into custody and ordered to appear in court on the next business day following your arrest. Either way, you must appear in court at the date and time specified. Failing to appear at a court date will result in a bench warrant for your arrest and possibly another criminal charge.
In some (but not all) courts, you can have a retained attorney appear in your place for the first court appearance if you are charged with a misdemeanor offense. Talk with your lawyer about whether waiving your first court appearance is possible.
How do I know if I am charged with a felony or misdemeanor theft charge?
If you were charged with theft in the third degree (sometimes referred to as "Theft III") or theft in the second degree ("Theft II"), you are charged with a misdemeanor crime.
If you were charged with theft in the first degree ("Theft I") or aggravated theft in the first degree, then you are facing a felony charge.
There are other related charges such as identity theft; forgery; criminal possession of a forged instrument; etc. which are outside the scope of the discussion here.
What is the difference between these different theft charges?
The four main theft charges are summarized in very general terms:
This is only a general summary of the various types of theft charges. Always consult an Oregon criminal defense lawyer about specifics or your situation. If you are charged with an "attempted" theft charge, the crime classification is lowered one level. For example, attempted theft in the first degree (Attempted Theft I) is a Class A misdemeanor instead of a Class C felony.
Are there other types of theft charges?
Yes. As you can see above, it is illegal to take / steal property of another. It is also a crime to receive property known to be stolen or buy or sell stolen property. Oregon also criminalizes "theft of services" in the same manner as the theft of property. Also prohibited is theft of lost or mislaid property; theft by extortion; and theft by deception.
What about the crime of "shoplifting."
There is no Oregon crime called "shoplifting." Generally, when someone shoplifts an item the person is charged with one of the above theft counts. For example, if you shoplift $35 worth of merchandise, you would be charged with theft in the third degree (Theft III). If you shoplift $120 worth of merchandise, you would be charged with theft in the second degree (Theft II).
I was cited to appear in "community court" in Multnomah County. What does this mean?
If you were arrested for a misdemeanor theft offense in Multnomah County, you may be cited to appear in community court (usually Courtroom 1 of the Justice Center). Community court offers defendants the opportunity to perform a quantity of community service in exchange for a either a dismissal of the charge or a sentence of discharge.
For persons charged with a first time misdemeanor theft offense, community court can be an attractive option that could result in the dismissal of the charge upon successful completion of the program requirements. Your lawyer can explain more about this program.
If you are able to obtain a dismissal of the charge through community court, you may be immediately eligible to seal or expunge the record of your arrest.
What is a civil compromise?
Certain crimes, including most theft crimes, may be compromised and dismissed if the complaining witness (victim) and the court (judge) agree. There is a formal process to apply to have charges dismissed pursuant to a civil compromise. First, the complaining witness must acknowledge in writing that the person has received satisfaction for the injury / theft. Next, the court must be convinced that dismissal of the charge(s) pursuant to civil compromise is appropriate. If both of these conditions are met, the court will sign an order dismissing the charge(s) pursuant to the civil compromise.
Several issues may affect the ability of a defendant to obtain a civil compromise. Whether the DA objects, consents, or takes no position is a significant factor. Also, if a defendant has a prior record or a prior civil compromise, getting the court to agree to a civil compromise may not be possible. Some judges will not approve a civil compromise agreement for employee thefts or vulnerable victim (elderly / disabled) thefts. Sometimes the court will require that the defendant sign a release of liability against the complaining witness and police officers in order to obtain a civil compromise. Some courts charge fees to approve a civil compromise agreement.
Keep in mind that many corporate theft victims are unwilling to sign civil compromise agreements.
Can I expunge / seal a theft conviction?
Most theft charges are eligible to be expunged / sealed if you meet the general requirements (e.g. enough time has elapsed, no new criminal arrests / convictions). However, a conviction for aggravated theft in the first degree cannot be expunged because it is a Class B Felony.
If you are convicted of a theft charge, there will be a waiting period, generally from three to ten years, before you will be eligible to apply for expungement. If your theft charge is dismissed, then you may be able to move to expunge your arrest without waiting. Check with an experienced lawyer to see if you qualify.
David N Lesh
Oregon Theft Lawyer
No cost initial consultation
434 NW 19th Avenue
Portland, OR 97209
"Thank you for being such a nice and effective attorney. This was a very scary time for me and you made it almost painless. If I know of someone who needs your expertise in the future, I will highly recommend your name."
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David Lesh provides theft defense assistance to the Oregon communities of: Portland Ore., Portland OR, NW Northwest, SW Southwest, SE Southeast, NE Northeast, and N North; Gresham; Beaverton; Hillsboro; Tigard; Lake Oswego; McMinnville; Oregon City; Tualatin; West Linn; Woodburn; Milwaukie; Forest Grove; Wilsonville; Troutdale; Sherwood; Canby; and Multnomah County; Clackamas County; and Washington Counties. Read our privacy statement. Mr. Lesh accepts American Express, Discover, Visa and MasterCard and other debit and credit cards / card. Copyright 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007.