If the courthouse lost my case files regarding a petty theft,how should I proceed?

UPDATED: Jul 25, 2011

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If the courthouse lost my case files regarding a petty theft,how should I proceed?

I was arrested for petty theft. When I contacted the court house I was informed that they had lost my case file, and that I need to mail them my citation (which I no longer have). I have been unemployed for a year now, which is what led me to stealing. I have no money to pay my fine/get a lawyer, and I don’t know how to proceed. It has been 2 months since I received the notice from the courthouse and have not received anything else since. If I don’t contact the courthouse will the case be dropped? I am enrolled to start school and I am in the process of getting loans. How will this be affected?

Asked on July 25, 2011 California


FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

In all states in this country, the prosecution bears the burden of proof in a criminal proceeding. If the file concerning the criminal action against you has been lost by the court clerk, the prosecution against you cannot prove its case. If the prosecution cannot prove its case against you, then in all likelihood the action must be dismissed.

You should contact the county bar association where you live and see if they provide services to help people like you. Even if you had the citation for the petty theft charges against you, I would not send it to the court clerk for the simple fact that you have no duty to do so, and if you sent the citation, you would only be hurting yourself.

I would write the court clerk stating you do not have the citation and that unless he or she can find your file, you want the case dismissed keeping a copy of the letter for future reference.

Good luck.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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