Stolen Freedom: Your Rights After a Theft Arrest

Petty theft, and grand larceny are serious charges in all 50 states; they demand immediate attention. Even if someone only aided or abetted another thief, they’re equally culpable and are subject to applicable laws. Whether arrestees have been busted red-handed or investigated in great length, taking someone else’s property (including money) could land criminals in the big house for an extended stay — spanning decades if enough was stolen.

rights after theft arrest

Regardless of how much the arrestees took, they’re afforded Constitutional rights.

The right to remain silent

Being arrested is scary, and may compel scared individuals to speak much more than they should. After arrest, accused persons are taken either directly to jail, or an interrogation room, depending on circumstances or suspicion.

An accused person has the right to remain silent. This means anyone accused of a crime isn’t required by law to speak of the details, profess their guilt or innocence, or give information to help investigators further their investigation, or arrest other participants. Threatening, bribing, physically harming those accused of a crime because they wouldn’t speak are grounds for civil suit, and potentially case dismissal.

Regardless of whether someone heisted billions in diamonds, or a pair of brand-new jeans, they’re under no obligation to divulge details. In fact, it is suggested they don’t out of fear they’ll further incriminate themselves. As they say, silence is golden.

The right to know their rights

Thanks to a 1966 Supreme Court decision involving Ernesto Miranda, all individuals regardless of competence are afforded rights upon being presented with an arrest warrant, or being placed in immediate custody following the commission of theft crimes.

Mistakenly, many individuals are taken into custody without formally being read their Miranda rights. They are booked, thrown in a cell, then brought before a judge or magistrate to be read formal charges brought against them. Many are unaware of this, not knowing their rights could free them of illegal arrest.

The accused thief (et al) has the right to:

  • Remain silent.
  • To be appointed competent counsel of their choosing or have it assigned if indigent.
  • Have an attorney present during questioning, and be asked if they want to answer questions.
  • To know anything spoken can be used against them.
  • To have their rights explained if unsure of them.

The Massiah Doctrine, resulting from Massiah vs United States (1964), prohibits asking questions after one invokes their Sixth Amendment right to counsel. Many accused persons aren’t aware of this right, thereby appeasing law enforcement’s curiosity by answering their questions without attorney intervention.

The right to know charges

Simply put, you cannot be taken into custody without probable cause. Establishing probable cause is usually done by affidavit, or letter, written by investigators or prosecutors, that contains enough compelling information to merit either search or arrest.

That said, you’re entitled to know specific charges against you and some Harrisburg Law Firms I recommend will attest to this. Granted, in this example we use theft, but you still need to know any accompanying charges (fleeing, etc.) attached to your arrest. Police cannot (although they’d love to) arrest random people for the perception of crimes; at best, 48 hours is the longest one can be held without formal arrest.

Sometimes you’ll be arrested under preliminary charges which may change as information regarding the investigation becomes available. Just know, regardless, that any accused person has the right to know what charges they’re being detained for; the arraignment process uncovers why you’re being charged.

The right to counsel

Having competent counsel that understands criminal due process is everybody’s right, protected by the Sixth Amendment. Defendants may accept counsel offered by the courts if they are deemed indigent, or they can hire private counsel. If bail was set, and you’re able to post the required bond through a bondsman, get a list of individuals who practice criminal law. Some may do free case evaluations; others may charge a consultation fee; regardless, you’re afforded the right to be represented fairly during all phases of your hearing.

Should you waive your right to counsel, you’ll ultimately communicate with prosecutors directly. Note that going into court without representation isn’t suggested, given the strict courtroom decorum expected by judges and knowledge needed to write your own plea deals, etc.

Rights are guaranteed, not promised

Your right to remain silent, rights to counsel and right to understand charges aren’t given after you fill out paperwork or beg for them; they’ve been yours for over two hundred years.

If you’re unsure how to handle matters after being arrested for theft, it’s best to say nothing until your family attorney, or any attorney available willing to represent you, stands by your side. Remember, your guilt is only assumed – you deserve fair treatment regardless if it’s proven otherwise.