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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:
stealing property valued at greater than $10,000.
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.
There is no crime called “petty theft” in Oregon. Theft of vehicles (e.g. cars or trucks) are generally charged as unlawful use of a vehicle under ORS 164.135 and possession of a stolen vehicle under ORS 819.300. There is no crime called “grand theft auto” in Oregon.
What about the crime of shoplifting.
There is no Oregon crime called shoplifting. Generally, when someone shoplifts (steals from a store) 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.
What is the difference between theft and robbery?
Both crimes typically involve taking the property of another without lawful authority. However, robbery also involves the use or threatened use of force with the taking. Robberies are therefore more serious offenses.
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.
How do I contact David Lesh for help with my theft case?
Mr. Lesh does not charge for an initial consultation. Call his office at 503.546.2928 to speak with him. Mr. Lesh’s office is located at 434 NW 19th Avenue in Portland.
David Lesh Mini Biography
Oregon attorney since 1990;
Former prosecutor (5 years);
Former lawyer to the Portland Police Bureau (3+ years);
Sought after criminal defense attorney.
“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.”
Oregon Aggravated Theft