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The Consequences of Stealing – Theft and the Law

Theft can include armed robbery, burglary, theft by check, forgery, unauthorized use of a vehicle, fraud, false statement to a credit agency, shoplifting and the list goes on. The consequences for stealing range from a Class C misdemeanor to felony charges, usually depending on the monetary value of what was taken. If the value of the stolen item is under $1,500 then the perpetrator will most likely be convicted of a misdemeanor. This can result in a simple fine and/or community service, but could also involve jail time, depending on the circumstances. If the item stolen was of great value, the accused will most likely be charged with a felony and will have to serve prison time. At the time of a hearing the court will be notified if there is more than one offense on the suspect’s record and this will also affect the sentencing. People who steal generally do not do it just one time.

It is important to note that in some states, stealing of any kind is considered a “crime of moral turpitude”. This means the act of stealing is not a favorable action in community standards of justice, honesty or good morals. Even if you are charged with a misdemeanor, you will have a permanent criminal record that will follow you for the rest of your life. This can have negative effects on the wrongdoer’s character personally, legally and with future employment opportunities.

One of the most common forms of stealing is shoplifting. Shoplifting is the deliberate act of taking an unpaid item from a place of business and it happens more than we are aware. A person can be convicted of shoplifting even if they don’t walk out of the store, but are found with hidden merchandise in their possession. In some states, there is even a “law of Parties” meaning that if you are with a friend who is caught stealing in a retail establishment, you can also be prosecuted even though you didn’t intend on stealing. An average of $10 billion dollars’ worth of goods is stolen from retail businesses each year. The numbers and statistics are staggering. We all pay the price for people who commit these acts by having to pay more for products when companies pad prices to recuperate losses from shoplifters. The law does not look kindly on people who shoplift.

Bottom line, stealing is never a good idea and can land you in a world of trouble. It will affect the offender in many negative ways for the rest of their lives. Stealing also affects everyone in the community, in one way or another, which is why the laws are harsh. Thieves may think that they can get away with stealing, but eventually they will get caught and will be forced to face severe consequences.

An Overview of Misdemeanor Crimes and Probation

Crimes are not all alike. Although all immoral, crimes range in severity from minor infractions to major ones. This is why the law breaks down crimes into two categories: felonies and misdemeanors. Anyone convicted of a misdemeanor crime is called a misdemeanant, whereas anyone convicted of a felony is called a felon. Felonies are the worse of the two, including major crimes like murder, forgery, tax evasion, robbery, auto theft, and repeat offenses. Misdemeanors on the other hand are less severe than felonies, but still carry a cumbersome load of consequences and legal penalties.

This is why it is vital to retain the service of an experienced criminal lawyer for the best chance at reducing or dismissing misdemeanor charges in the case that you are ever charged with a crime. Often times, and especially for first-time offenders, lawyers can get lesser felony crimes reduced to misdemeanors. One of the most common penalties for misdemeanor crimes is probation. Continue reading to learn the basics surrounding misdemeanor crimes and probation, and who to turn to if facing such charges.

Misdemeanors

Misdemeanor offenses are crimes that are punishable by up to one year in jail. There are three “classes” of misdemeanor crimes. Depending on the state you live, these can include a series of letters or numbers. In states that classify misdemeanors with letters, they generally range from “A” to “C”, with Class C misdemeanors being the least serious and Class A being the most serious. In states that use numbers to classify their misdemeanors, they generally range from Class 1 to 4, with four being the least serious.

Even though misdemeanors are less serious, but still come with notable penalties. A misdemeanant can expect to pay fines, complete a certain amount of community service hours, serve probation, and possibly pay restitution. The combination or extent of penalties largely depends on the defendant’s criminal history, the particular crimes they are convicted of, and the strength of their legal defense.

Probation is generally between 3 months and one year for misdemeanants. Terms of probation can include, but is not limited to, regular drug screening, monthly meetings with a probation officer, mandatory employment, refraining from committing any more crimes, and more. Breaking the terms of probation results in a probation violation, which in turn, carries a whole other set of penalties, including extension of probation and even possible jail time. It is critical to the sake of your freedom and your rights to obtain the services of a licensed criminal lawyer if ever charged with a crime of any level.

Vigilante Justice – When the Law Fails

People take the law for granted, until it fails. We assume that the man who steals our car or breaks into our house will be prosecuted and punished. What happens when that assumption is no longer valid? When the law fails to protect the citizens and punish the lawbreakers?
The small town of Skidmore, Missouri found out on July 10, 1981, when Ken Rex McElroy was shot to death as he sat in his pickup on the main street of town. McElroy had waged a twenty-year reign of terror over all of northwest Missouri, getting away with almost every crime in the book: rape, arson, kidnapping, burglary, theft, assault, you name it. The law seemed powerless to stop him; witnesses changed their stories; judges recused themselves from his cases; prosecutors dismissed indictments; the town marshal resigned.

I told the story of McElroy’s reign of terror, his shooting, and the ensuing silence by the numerous witnesses to the murder in the book In Broad Daylight, which was published by HarperCollins in 1989, and which won an Edgar Award for Best True Crime and was made into a movie starring Brian Denehey. I revisited the story in a twenty-five year anniversary edition of the book published by St. Martins Press in December 2006. This edition contains startling new information on the killing and the identity of the killers.

It is not surprising that after all this time the witnesses to the killing still have not talked about what they saw that hot July morning. You might hear them say something like “McElroy needed killing,” and what they mean is that the town believed it had no choice but to take the law into its own hands. In their view, the town had returned to the lawlessness of the frontier days, when individuals undertook their own protection at the end of a barrel. Indeed, McElroy was stalking, with a weapon, several witnesses who were scheduled to testify against him in a bond revocation hearing the next week.

You can argue whether what happened that day was morally right or wrong. On Larry King Live, King opined that taking a life outside the law was never the right thing to do. Others argue that it should have happened long before it did.

Behind the discussion is a very basic principle of civilized society, a contract between the government and its citizens: you give up the right to enforce the law and punish lawbreakers in exchange for the government’s promise to do it for you. Put your weapons away and the government–in the form of the criminal justice system–will protect you.

In general, when one party fails to a contract fails to live up to his obligations the other party is released from his promise. If the government cannot protect me, I am entitled to protect myself. If the law t cannot protect the town, the town is entitled to protect itself, to “take the law into its own hands,” as the saying goes. It’s a scary notion in many ways, and it certainly sets a dangerous precedent, in effect allowing individual citizens to decide when they are entitled to engage in “self help.”

One of the most intriguing aspects of the story was the very fragile nature of what we call law and order. We might think that the criminal justice system is rooted in reality through law and courts and cops; the fact is, the criminal justice system is rooted in perception. Once the people no longer believe that it works, it no longer works. If witnesses no longer believe the law can protect them, that it can catch and punish the lawbreakers, they won’t come forward to testify. Cops won’t put their lives on the line. Citizens won’t go to their neighbors’ aid.
In the last few weeks of his life, McElroy had reduced the town of Skidmore to a community where it was every man for himself. When McElroy fired his shotgun over a house in the middle of the night, the neighbors turned away. McElroy, of course, finally pushed the town to far. When the people, with good reason, lost their faith in the system, when they felt exposed and vulnerable to the raging of a violent sociopath, they undertook to solve the problem themselves, they exercised the fundamental right of self-protection.

If there is a lesson to be learned in this cautionary tale, it’s that the criminal justice system in the end is about protecting the citizens and when the citizens fail to perceive that the system is doing its job the descent into lawlessness is rapid and certain.

Identity Theft Crimes Against Seniors – How to Stop Them!

Seniors are victims of cons more often than any other age group. Seniors tend to be more trusting, and less apt to question someone who portrays himself as an “expert”. Here are two common scams against seniors that you should look out for!

Scam #1: Disabled Access Telephone Scam
According to the IRS, a new tax scam has been uncovered. Con artists sell expensive coin-operated telephones to individuals. Then, the salespeople offer to “lease back” the phones and service them for a fee. The unsuspecting “investors” are then charged outrageous amounts. According to the Federal Trade Commission, the phones are often never delivered, and the fees continue to be charged anyway.

The telephone salesman also informs the “investor” that they qualify for IRS Disabled Access Credits; a substantial tax break offered to businesses who invest in equipment and upgrades designed to make their businesses more accessible to disabled individuals. The phones do not qualify for the credit, and the victim is then also in trouble because of tax fraud. The responsibility for tax mistakes always lies with the taxpayer, regardless of where the information came from.

Seniors are particularly vulnerable, because most of them are unfamiliar with complex tax law. Seniors are eager for passive income, since most are retired and do not work. The scam artists promise to provide enormous tax breaks and a steady income. Multiple tax cases have been brought before the IRS regarding this scam. In at least three cases, the company “Alpha Telecom” incorrectly advised investors that the pay phones qualified for a Disabled Access tax deduction. Alpha Telecom was cited by the Federal Trade Commission for violating Federal law. Unsuspecting investors lost thousands of dollars, and Alpha Telecom filed for bankruptcy after being investigated in at least twelve states.

Scam #2: Website Mall Scams
In a similar scam, a salesman offers to set up an internet “virtual mall.” The internet mall supposedly qualifies the buyer for the Disabled Access Credit, and the scam promises huge profits from internet sales, which, of course, never materialize. The website company sets up a “dummy” website and then charges the buyer an inflated commission. When the unsuspecting investor attempts to claim the tax credit, the IRS disallows the deduction. The investor is then liable for additional taxes and penalties.

A Las Vegas telemarketing company, National Audit Defense Network (NADN), is one of the companies involved in this “Virtual Mall” scheme. In 2004, NADN filed for bankruptcy after the justice department discovered that it had sold numerous abusive tax shelters, costing the US Treasury over $320 million dollars. The justice department obtained NADN’s customer list, allegedly comprised of 640,000 taxpayers, all of which may have unknowingly participated in an unlawful tax shelter.

If you feel that you may have been a victim of an abusive tax shelter, contact a tax professional immediately. Enrolled Agents, CPAs, and attorneys are all qualified to represent taxpayers in an audit and in tax court. They can file an amended return for you, and help represent you, if necessary. Enrolled Agents may be the least expensive of the three, because they specialize only in tax.

Remember, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!”