Q: a clothing store is accusing my niece of stealing some items what can she do?
She used a reusable bag to put some items since she is environmentally conscious. She was not done shopping yet , when a tall man approached her and said that she left the store without paying. My niece says she thinks she was still inside the store, they took her to a room took her purse and cellphone from her, she got very nervous since she is on a working permit for a year with Disney in Orlando . She is not
Fluent in English, they asked her to sign some stuff where she says she left the store , and they refuse to show her the video where they said she left the store. They did not allow her to but anything. They send her a note from the sheriff to go to court on Feb 11. Does she need a lawyer? Can she write an apology letter? Do you think she will loose her work permit? Can the state provide s lawyer since she is not a citizen? I would appreciate very much your answer. Do you recommend someone in Orlando in case she needs a lawyer. Thank you so much
A: You niece definitely needs a lawyer, at least to consult, if not for full representation. She may or may not be eligible for a free attorney with the Public Defender's Office; she can contact that office for info on that. Yes, she is at risk of losing her work permit, and in any event, can fired from her job because of this, as well as end up with a permanent criminal record. No, an apology letter will not make this problem go away. For a private attorney, search for criminal defense attorneys on-line (such as on Justia) or tell your niece to call the Florida Bar Referral Service at 800-342-8011.
In addition to the criminal charge, your niece might also receive a letter from the store's attorney demanding she pay the value of the "stolen" item or $200, whichever is greater (even if the "stolen" item was kept by the store). This kind of demand is authorized by law and should not be ignored.
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