Interviewer: How long can a theft case potentially last?
Court Koehler: Theft charges are not as complicated and complex as some other charges that involve drugs and things like that. When you have drug cases or drunk-driving cases, there’s science and there are those tests that are involved in determining whether a substance is a controlled substance and whether it was in somebody’s body and things like that. Those kinds of things can tend to take up a lot of time. With the theft charge, really it’s just based on witnesses generally and everything’s pretty much ready to go.
Generally a Theft Trial Can Take a Couple of Months to get Resolved
It’s just a matter of whether or not you are going to accept the plea bargain deal with the prosecutor or you are going to set it for trial. If you do set it for trial, you have a constitutional right to a speedy trial. There is not a technical rule about what is a speedy trial, is it a trial in 20 days, is it a trial in 50 days? There’s no rule to that but what it does mean is that there can’t be any sort of unnecessary delay through the court systems and things can’t continue to get pushed back. If you have a theft charge and you know you’re going to defend yourself against that, you’re going to take it to trial, it’s probably going to be over and done with within a couple of months.
Diversionary Programs Available to First Time Theft Offenders in Utah
Interviewer: What sort of diversionary programs are available to first time offenders with theft charges?
Court Koehler: There are not any formal programs that I know of but diversions are something that do occur on a regular basis. Not in any formal program kind of way, but what a diversion is where you look at a charge, the prosecutor says, “Okay, we have this evidence”, and you say, “All right, I am guilty but I have a good record and I don’t have any prior offenses and that’s not anything particularly troubling about this offense that I committed”. It’s a deal that the prosecutor offers and says, “If you’re willing to pay a fine and go through some sort of probationary programs, if you manage to complete that program, then after a certain amount of time, we will dismiss the case and the charges will just go away as if they never had been brought”. It’s a really good deal, and there’s definitely a possibility that you could be offered that. It usually takes some negotiation with the prosecutor and stuff like that but there is no formal program but it’s something that does happen.
The Importance of Retaining an Attorney for a Theft Charge in Utah
Interviewer: Why is it is crucial to secure an attorney especially for a theft charge?
Court Koehler: Attorneys are used to dealing with these cases and they know what sorts of evidence is dangerous to you and what sorts of things need to be proven. They also know what kinds of evidence can be suppressed or that are inadmissible in trial. That’s really what everything comes down to and it doesn’t matter what the prosecutor thinks or the prosecutor knows; it matters what the prosecutor can prove in court. Only a lawyer really has a good understanding of what exactly needs to be proven and how that’s going to be proven by the prosecutor. You really can’t asses the strength of your case without that kind of experience, and you also don’t know what penalties you’re facing so you can’t really asses the risk of taking something to trial versus accepting a plea bargain unless you have input from an attorney.