Houman Fakhimi

Be Wary of Prosecution's Attempts to use Shady Tactics in Santa Ana Theft Cases

A recent case in Nevada, Stephans v. State, highlights the problems that defendants in Santa Ana could face when prosecutors cut corners.

Charges of theft in Santa Ana can carry hefty prison sentences, which is why they must be taken seriously by the defendant. While there may be a possibility the charges can be reduced from felonies to misdemeanors, that's not always the case. Plus, there's always the possibility that the state could ask for restitution, which is payment for the money lost.

Orange County criminal defense lawyers take theft cases seriously because we believe every client deserves a fair trial. That means having a dedicated lawyer well versed in examining all the evidence to prepare a strong defense.

In the Stephans case, Nevada prosecutors obviously cut corners in their effort to secure a conviction in this case. At trial, over the defense's objection, prosecutors were able to rely on a loss-prevention officer to testify against Stephans and a co-defendant, who were charged with stealing six bottles of cologne from a department store.

At trial, the officer testified that the two men stole six bottles of cologne, though they weren't offered into evidence. The officer testified that he collected the price tags and they totaled $477. In Nevada, in order to prove grand larceny, the value must be proven to be $250 or more and after considering the officer's testimony, the jury convicted on that charge.

Rather than calling in a store manager who could testify about the price of the cologne or admitting into evidence a normal bottle of cologne with the price tag, prosecutors were able to rely on the word of a security officer, who didn't even have the price tags with him. The jury never saw that. That's one piece of evidence that was readily available, but the state was too lazy to gather it and bring it in.

Luckily, the Nevada Supreme Court overturned the grand larceny charge and sent it back for a new trial. The loss-prevention officer's testimony shouldn't have been admitted, the state's high court ruled.

Sadly, it happens with some frequency that prosecutors attempt to get a conviction with less-than credible witnesses and a cut-corners approach. Many prosecutors have hundreds of cases to handle at once, but that's no excuse to violate the rights of one defendant.

And that, in large part, is why hiring an experienced Santa Ana criminal defense lawyer is so important. A defense attorney acts as a check-and-balance to the criminal justice system, which is also a check-and-balance for the prosecution.

Every defendant has a right to a fair trial, whether a simple battery case, theft case or murder case. Regardless of the charge or the possible penalties, everyone must follow the rules, and that includes prosecutors. Sadly, it took several years before a court could make the right decision in the Stephans case, but appeals courts are there to hold trial courts accountable. For Stephans, and other defendants who see justice, it's good the system works as it does.