Queens County Bar Association
Martindale Hubbell - Distinguished 2023

Common Client Mistakes Detrimental to a Theft Case

Interviewer: What would make a person’s case worse when it comes to just theft in general?

Martin Kane: Well, the only thing that can make a case worse once you are arrested, once you are being questioned by the police, is to say anything at all. There’s no such thing as a good statement; that does not exist. Because if it is helpful, it will not be usable. If it winds up being something that in any way could harm you, it is usable. So if you are arrested by the police, you should never, ever make a statement — either to the police or to the district attorney. Even if they tell you that by cooperating with them, it will help you case or it will make them go easier on you; you should not speak with them because they aren’t bound by promises they make to you.

It Is Advisable Not To Provide A Statement To The Police In The Absence Of
An Attorney

If it’s advisable to speak with the police and to give them information or cooperate with them, it should be done only with your attorney. Because your attorney will secure a promise from the district attorney, not the police officer, and that district attorney will be bound by that promise. So again the only thing that I can tell people is at the time that they are being arrested, that there is no way possible to help yourself by speaking with either the police officer or the district attorney at that time, without having an attorney with you — it can only hurt you.

The Purpose Of A Civil Demand Letter On The State Of New York

Interviewer: What’s the purpose of a civil demand letter? How can that help or hinder someone?

Martin Kane: Basically what you’re talking about is — and this happens a lot in shoplifting cases — when you get arrested in a large store, they will — actually they have a right under the law to obtain money from you. Usually it’s $500, or the value of the goods, and they will attempt to get you to sign something agreeing to pay that money. One of the department stores — and they’re the only one that I know of right now — Macy’s will actually take your credit card and make you sign over the funds to them using your credit card. Do not do that. Do not sign anything from the store; do not give them any money unless you speak with your attorney. That can be both harmful to your case and can cost you money unnecessarily. Whatever you do, do not sign any agreement to pay the store money or agree to give them any money.

It Is Important Not To Plead Guilty And Expect Mercy From The Court

Interviewer: If there is an individual who may feel like, ‘Hey, I’ve been caught red-handed. I’m guilty.’ Now for those individuals, they may be wondering should they throw themselves on the mercy of the court, or should they fight the charges?

Martin Kane: That again would be the same as any other criminal charge. There is always something that can be done. The court and the district attorney do not show mercy on their own. They have to be asked, they have to be prodded, and it has to be demanded. And this is not something that the individual can do themselves — that’s what you need a good lawyer for. Most cases — certainly not all cases — but the majority of the cases, people have done something wrong. Then it’s a question of getting the best possible right result in those circumstances. And the only one who can do that for you is an attorney who is totally familiar with that type of case, and in that jurisdiction, because it varies depending on the place where you go.

It Is Important To Have Competent Legal Counsel Representing You In A Theft Case

The worst thing I see is that sometimes defendants and their unfamiliar attorneys work out a disposition and walk out of court happy as clams because they think they’ve done very well, when my colleagues and I are sitting there knowing they did not, by any means, get the best possible disposition. So you should never just go in and say, ‘Okay, you know I’m guilty. Do what you want with me; please have mercy.’ It does not work, is not good, and the results can’t be changed once they’re done. So whatever you do, make sure you have an attorney who knows what he’s doing in that particular court.

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