“No case is cut and dry. I beat this theft case by casting doubt on the plaintiff’s story. Reasonable doubt is frequently enough to beat a theft charge in New Jersey.”
There was an in-home nurse recently charged with theft in Parsippany, New Jersey. This caretaker was accused of snatching money from the woman’s purse whom she had been caring for.
The amount of the alleged theft was $1,200.00, which is a third degree criminal offense punishable by three to five years in state prison. That amount of time away from your life, family, and friends is incredibly serious, and the woman accused of the crime was adamant that she was being sent up.
Theft of this level is an indictable (felony) level offense, which must be handled at the Superior Court. This is important to note because charges handles in superior court always bear a more serious punishment. Lesser offenses are handled in the municipal court where the offense took place. Part of a good defense attorney’s strategy is having cases sent back down to municipal court where the client’s potential punishment is much less severe.
The circumstances of the alleged theft were as follows. The defendant was a lymphatic care specialist who operated a business with her husband providing treatment to patients in their homes. She regularly traveled to her patients homes and provided the treatment that people need.
The victim in this case alleged that the defendant was stealing cash from her purse while she was in her home providing treatments. In fact, she set up a hidden camera in her kitchen and videotaped the defendant going into her purse and taking money from it, allegedly without the victim’s consent.
When the defense attorney received the discovery package, which includes the police reports, videotapes, and all the evidence the State intends to rely upon to prove the charges against the defendant, the case did not seem so open and shut.
The defendant had an explanation as to the videotape evidence. She explained that the woman pressing charges against her specifically told her to go into the purse and take money out of it. There had been an ongoing billing dispute between the two parties, and the woman being cared for was significantly behind on payments. For whatever reason, there had also been email communication between the two of them where the alleged victim instructed to caretaker to actually buy that particular purse for her.
Perhaps she felt that a purse was a necessary prop in her set-up of an innocent in-home care specialist.
There were also emails and letters from the alleged victim concerning the outstanding bills with the company, and insurance coverage, and her concern about being personally reliable for the outstanding medical bills. It had become clear that the alleged victim was not going to be able to pay for the care she was receiving, she wasn’t going to be able to pay for the care that she had received, and she needed to find a way out of it.
As the case was still pending in the Morris County Superior Court, the alleged victim sent the defendant and her husband a fax asking for $10,000.00 and forgiveness of any outstanding bills and she would agree to dismiss the charges against the defendant. This extortion tactic clearly displayed the victim’s motives and destroyed her credibility in court.
As a result, the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office investigated this fax and decided to send the case back to the Parsippany Municipal Court to be resolved. This was important for the defendant because, when the case was returned to the municipal level, it became a disorderly persons offense. This is would make it a misdemeanor level offense, punishable by a maximum of six months in the county jail as opposed to five years in state prison on a third degree. That’s a huge difference in risk, and the defendant was quite relieved to see the truth coming out.
When the case was scheduled in Parsippany Municipal Court for trial, the alleged victim failed to appear and the charges were dismissed for lack of prosecution. The defendant was vindicated and was extremely happy with the result in this case.
Not every theft case is cut and dry as you can clearly see. Even videotaped evidence doesn’t clearly reflect the truth at times. People do some crazy things when they become desperate, and many times these actions can ruin the lives of others. Imagine being someone whose job it is to take care of people in their homes, providing a good service and doing something kind. Suddenly, a patient decides that she doesn’t want to pay you anymore, and puts you in a position to be thrown in prison for five years, taken away from your family, and losing a significant portion of your life behind bars.
It’s cases like these that make me proud to be a defense attorney.