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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2009

    Question Using the Insanity Defense for Shoplifting

    My question involves criminal law for the state of: Colorado

    Approximately two months ago I (21 years of age) was detained by Home Depot LP for shoplifting approximately $110 worth of items for a school project. Upon detainment, the police were notified. I was not arrested, but given a citation and thus a summons to court. I have spent much time researching my case and this is what I have found I need to do. My main question to the forum is to ensure my steps are logical and not the wrong approach. Since I cannot afford a lawyer, I will be representing myself.

    1. The first step (the discovery process) will be to request my case documentation from the court clerk to confirm charges and view the evidence against me. Along with this, I plan to attend a court session to get a ‘layout of the land’, so to speak.

    2. Attend my court date (with proper dress attire, showered, etc), where I expect to visit with the prosecutor. During my conversation with the prosecutor, I will ask for admittance into a diversion program involving 6 months community service and/or classes. Whatever it takes.

    -A question I have during my ‘examination’ with the prosecutor is: What exactly should I be telling the prosecutor? Should I be informing him I have no previous charges on my record (other than small traffic), that I have been attending catholic school my entire life, that this is an extreme out of character event, that I am a full time student at a prestige college in my senior year, etc? I am also assuming I should not provide any direct admission of guilt at this point (aka. I’m guilty, arrest me), but this is almost implied with a request for a diversion program, correct?

    -Also, I have been taking medication for ADHD for a couple years now. The few days prior to the incident, I had not been taking my medicine because I ran out and it was the weekend. I am not sure if this truly has effect on my mental capacity, as I have not been off the medicine long enough to test it, but do I have Defense of Insanity plea? More specifically, I would intend to pursue I was in a state of ‘Diminished Capacity’; I was not fully aware of my actions because I was not on medication. I am a little weary of this route because I cannot find a lot of information on it and the consequences of Defense by Insanity my look questionable on my record. It would almost seem that I should take the diversion route and have the ticket dismissed that way, but I could be wrong.

    3. During my hearing, if I like the offer I get, take it and be a good boy; and if I don’t like it, request a continuance to speak with the public defender. The court has indicated a public defender will not be issued unless there is a possibility of a jail sentence. From my research, jail time is not probable, but I do not know if my case will qualify for a public defender. When I request discovery documents from the court, will the clerk know if I am eligible for the public defender if asked?

    As far as a civil demand from the retailer, I have not received a demand. But I do intend to pay it as reprimands for my actions, as I plan to tell the prosecutor when necessary. Correct me if I am wrong, but in order for the company to bring a civil suit upon me, they first have to ‘Serve” me, correct?

    In advanced, thank you for any help.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Behind a Desk

    Default Re: Using the Insanity Defense for Shoplifting

    The manner in which prosecutors offer plea bargains to unrepresented individuals varies a lot, not just by state, but by prosecutor's office. In some courts, you'll be in a line with a bunch of other defendants and the prosecutor will do little more than tell you what deal they're offering. The prosecutor is not likely to have much time for you, is not likely to be interested in hearing you vouch for your own character, and is unlikely to do much more than offer you their standard deal for a first-time shoplifter; but you won't know for sure until you get there. Your instinct is correct, that the best way to find out what the local practices are is to attend a session of court.

    In my opinion, trying to raise an insanity defense because you didn't take ADHD medicine will get you at best a laugh, and at worst will cost you some goodwill. You clearly were aware of what you were doing, and I don't think anybody is going to believe for a second that without your ADHD medication you were unable to distinguish right from wrong at the time of your act.

    If you don't like the prosecutor's offer you can see if you qualify for a public defender, or you can consult (or retain) a private lawyer. I suggest consulting a private lawyer in advance of your hearing (try to get a free consultation) so you can get a better sense of what to expect.

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