FLORIDA THEFT CRIME ATTORNEYS
Get Relentless Defense for Your Theft Crimes
Florida §812.014 defines theft as an act where a person knowingly obtains or uses the property of another to deny the other person access to their belongings or to wrongfully use the property to their own advantage. The severity of the charge can vary depending on the property stolen. If you were charged with a theft crime, it is important to seek qualified legal counsel who will aggressively defend your rights.
The state of Florida, as of October of 2019, just created a new law raising the maximum dollar amount permitted for a crime to be considered petit theft from $300 to $750. In this instance, the government must prove the value of the allegedly stolen property based on the fair market price.
Notwithstanding this change, Florida severely punishes those who commit theft crimes. Any crime of theft, including everything from shoplifting to grand theft, will be treated very seriously by prosecutors and are deemed “crimes of dishonesty.”
Convictions for theft can have devastating collateral consequences, including jail time, monetary fines, probation, and trouble finding gainful employment, to name a few.
In Florida, anyone who is convicted of even minor forms of theft, such as shoplifting or petit theft, will have his or her fingerprints taken by the court. Even if someone is not convicted, his or her name can still be included in a national database that employers use to conduct a check of one’s background.
If a person is a repeat offender, previous convictions can cause him or her to face enhanced penalties.
Theft Crime Attorneys in Florida
The majority of people who face theft charges are deemed “first-time offenders,” meaning that they do not have a prior criminal record. Musca Law’s attorneys represent individuals, including adults and juveniles, who are facing a variety of theft charges. Our skilled Florida theft defense lawyers challenge the charges during each step of the associated criminal proceeding.
If you are facing charges for a misdemeanor or felony theft charge, it is critical that you contact a seasoned Florida criminal defense attorney at Musca Law. Our attorneys will advise you of your legal rights and options, the nature of the charges being sought against you, and the defenses that may apply in your case. Don’t wait – contact Musca Law now at (888) 484-5057.
Understanding Theft Crimes
As listed in Florida Statute Title XLVI Chapter 812.014(1), a culprit commits an act of theft if he/she willingly takes or attempts to take or use any piece of property that does not belong to him/her, with the intention of:
- Keeping the victim from wielding rights to that piece of property.
- Using the piece of property for his/her use or for the use of any individual who does not maintain legal ownership over this property.
Protecting Yourself Following an Accusation of Theft in Florida
There are a variety of reasons why a false theft allegation can occur. Individuals facing false charges for theft should contact a lawyer immediately to address the matter before the prosecution makes a filing decision in your case.
For example, shoplifting charges may arise because the accused mistakenly took an item while he or she was distracted. Even if law enforcement thinks that an item was, in fact, mistakenly taken, officers will typically proceed with an arrest. A lawyer can assist you in attempting to convince law enforcement, the state attorney’s office, and the alleged victim that the case should not be brought forward. The accused may pursue this action for several days after the alleged theft occurred.
In other instances, shoplifting or theft can occur because the suspect has a psychological issue that would be better addressed in a venue other than the criminal court. By evincing to law enforcement, the alleged victim, and the court that the suspect is willing to seek counseling, he or she may be spared a criminal record or prison sentence.
Common Types of Theft Crimes
Florida prosecutes more petit theft offenses for shoplifting than any other crime. Charges for of shoplifting, also known as retail theft, may qualify as misdemeanor petit theft or felony grand theft.
Whether a person is charged with a felony or misdemeanor, theft offenses are, as noted above, considered “crimes of dishonesty.” Several people who are charged with a theft offense made a genuine mistake, which can quickly turn into criminal accusations, even if the individual has no previous criminal background.
Most people charged with misdemeanor petit theft are women with no previous criminal record. Our clients often lack experience with the criminal justice system and are fearful about the repercussions associated with a conviction for theft in Florida.
Each county in Florida has what are known as diversion programs which may be available to first time offenders. Keep in mind that the retailer may pursue civil damages against you pertaining to the alleged theft. This is why it is critical to have an experienced Florida criminal defense attorney by your side to vigorously defend you.
The penalty associated with a retail theft or shoplifting case depends upon the value of the allegedly stolen property. Specifically, if the item taken had a value that was:
- Lower than $100, the resulting crime will constitute a second-degree petit theft, which carries with it a prison term of 60 days and a monetary fine of $500.
- Greater than $750, the resulting crime will constitute a first-degree petit theft, which carries with it a prison term of up to twelve months and a monetary fine of $1,000.
If a person has two previous theft crime convictions, then he or she will face a felony petit theft charge. In these circumstances, the value of the property taken will be irrelevant, and the charges will be for a third-degree felony that is associated with a five-year jail term and a $5,000 monetary fine. It is also a third-degree felony if the item stolen from a retailer was worth more than $750.
If the alleged theft is from a dwelling, the accused can face grant theft charges if the item taken from the dwelling has a value of over $100 but less than $750.
Classifications and Consequences of Florida Theft Charges
Florida laws distinguish theft crimes as either petit or grand theft. The value of the stolen property usually determines the gravity of the crime. Read below to understand varying degrees of theft crimes in Florida.
- Petit Theft of the Second Degree – Also known as “petty theft,” petit theft of the second degree is the lowest offense. You can be charged if the property stolen was less than $100. Potential punishment includes no more than 60 days in jail and no more than a $500 fine.
- Petit Theft of the First Degree – If the stolen property was worth more than $100 but less than $300, the crime will be considered petit theft of the first degree. This is punishable as a first-degree misdemeanor. If convicted, a person can face up to one-year jail time and up to a $1,000 fine.
- Grand Theft of the Third Degree – A third-degree grand theft charge can consist of differently valued property. Offenses can include stealing wills, firearms, a motor vehicle, a stop sign, and more. If convicted, a person can face up to 5 years in jail and up to a $5,000 fine.
- Grand Theft of the Second Degree – Grand theft of the second degree is considered a second-degree felony in Florida. Some offenses include stealing property valued between $20,000 and $100,000, emergency equipment valued at $300 or more, and cargo valued less than $50,000. Those convicted can face up to 15 years in jail and up to a $10,000 fine.
- Grand Theft of the First Degree – This is the most serious theft offense in Florida. Some offenses include stealing property valued at more than $100,000, theft utilizing a vehicle that causes more than $1,000 in property and real estate damage, and stealing cargo worth more than $50,000. The sentence for such a crime can include a fine of no more than $10,000 and imprisonment for up to 30 years.
Stealing Property from Victims Who Are 65 Years or More
As dictated by Florida Statute Title XLVI Chapter 812.0145(1), any person who attempts to steal a piece of property valued at $1,000 (or more) from a victim who is 65 years of age or older shall be ordered (by a Florida Court) to make restitution for damages to the property and complete at least 500 hours of work in a community service program. Keep in mind that this punishment will accompany any fines or sentences that have already been set in place.
Under Chapter 812.0145(1)(a-d), if a person is charged with stealing property from a person who is at least 65 years of age and is fully knowledgeable of the victim’s age, he/she will potentially face one of the following forms of punishment:
- If the funds or property estimate to $50,000 or higher, the culprit will be charged with a 1st-degree felony, punishable by a $10,000 fine and/or jail time that is no longer than 30 years.
- If the funds or property estimate to at least $10,000 and no greater than $50,000, the culprit will be charged with a 2nd-degree felony, punishable by a $10,000 fine and/or jail time that is no longer than 15 years.
- If the funds or property estimate to at least $300 but not greater than $10,000, the culprit will be charged a 3rd-degree felony, punishable by a fine of $5,000 and/or jail time that is no longer than 5 years.
Embezzlement and Employee Theft in Florida
The crime of embezzlement and employee theft is prosecuted harshly in Florida. As with any type of theft offense, it qualifies as a “crime of dishonesty.” In several of these cases, the accused employee has been working for the company for several years, does not have a prior criminal record, and absconds money or property worth over $100,000.
A prison sentence for these type of offenses is severe, even when the accused employee has no previous criminal record. If You have been accused be your employer of theft, it is critical that you speak with a seasoned Florida criminal defense lawyer prior to making statements to law enforcement or the accusing employer. At Musca Law, we have defended several people who were facing accusations of taking property from non-profit organizations, businesses or charitable organizations. In these situations, the amount of property or money taken is often greater than $100,000. In such event, the non-profit organization, charity, or business can file a civil case for damages against the accused in either state and federal court. That is why it is critical that you work with a seasoned criminal defense attorney at Musca Law.
Possessing Altered/Edited Property
Under Title XLVI, Chapter 812.016 of the Florida Statutes categorizes possession of altered property as a form of theft or robbery in the State of Florida. Under this code, any person (a property dealer) who is fully aware that identifying features (e.g. labels, codes) on property that he/she is maintaining control over had been removed will charged with a 1st-degree misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine of $1,000 and/or jail time that does not exceed 1 year.
Obtaining Property by using a Check that is Worthless
A common offense in Florida is obtaining an item with a worthless check. Working with a seasoned Florida criminal defense attorney to represent an accused in this situation can result in the charges being dropped by the prosecution before a warrant has been issued for one’s arrest.
Under Florida Statutes Section 832.05, Obtaining Property for a Worthless Check, Drafts and Debit Card Orders is a crime that is chargeable when a person obtains property or services from another person by writing a check that he or she knows lack the necessary funds to cover it.
There are several defenses that apply to charges of obtaining property in exchange for a worthless check, which include:
- The person who was the recipient of the check knew or should have known that the check would not clear. If a person writes a check to another individual who is made aware that the account lacked the funds required to back it, this is a viable defense. For example, if a person drafts a check and asks the recipient to hold it for a certain period of time, and then the recipient goes to deposit it knowing that there are insufficient funds, then this defense can be raised.
- The drafter of the check did not know that it was worthless. A frequently used defense to the offense of obtaining property by a worthless check involves the “knowingly” requirement. Accordingly, there are several people who are deemed not guilty of this offense given that they were experiencing financial hardship and wrote a check under the belief that they had sufficient funds to back it. Due to mismanagement or another error, the check bounced, which was not intended by the individual who wrote the check. Hence, this defense may apply under these circumstances.
- Stopping payment with intent to defraud. When a person wrote a check issued a stop payment order on that check, then this offense cannot be prosecuted as obtaining property by a worthless check.
- Forged check. Similarly, if a person forges a check, he or she cannot be charged with obtaining property by a worthless check. This crime will be prosecuted pursuant to the state forgery statute.
- Post-dated checks. This defense to obtaining property by a worthless check can be raised if the person who receives the check accepts it as post-dated. Post-dating a check puts the recipient on notice that there are insufficient funds backing the instrument until a certain date.
Florida Statutes Section 832.05 states that the individual who receives the check must not have a reason to believe the account lacks necessary funds exclusively because the individual who paid with the check had previous given him or her a check that bounced. The law also provides that the payment of a check that was dishonored, or a dishonored draft, debit card order, or bill of exchange does not qualify as a viable defense necessary to seek to have the applicable charges dismissed.
If a person writes a worthless check with knowledge that there are insufficient funds, and the check was written for a sum under $150, then he or she can face up to twelve months in prison. If the check was written for $150 or greater, then the offense constitutes a third-degree felony, which carries with it a prison term of at most five years.
Trafficking Stolen Property
Keep in mind that the term “trafficking” refers to the sale, transference, and/or distribution of property or the purchasing of stolen property with the intention to sell these items.
As dictated in Florida Statute Title XLVI Chapter 812.019 (1), any person who willingly and intentionally deals in property that he/she knew was stolen will be charged with a 2nd-degree felony, punishable by a $10,000 fine and/or jail time that does not exceed 15 years.
Likewise, Chapter 812.019(2) states that any person who plans the theft of property and traffics this property will be charged with a 1st-degree felony, punishable by a fine of $10,000 and/or jail time that does not exceed 30 years.
Using the Internet to Traffic Stolen Property
In a similar light, Florida Statute Title XLVI Chapter 812.0195 clearly dictates that any person who uses the Internet to post offerings for or attempt to sell any kind of property that he/she knows is stolen will be punished in one of two ways:
- Chapter 812.0195(1): If the property retains a value of less than $300, the culprit will be charged with a 2nd-degree misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of $500 and/or prison time that does not exceed 60 days.
- Chapter 812.0195(2): If the property retains a value of $300 or more, the culprit will be charged with a 3rd-degree felony, punishable by a fine of $5,000 and/or prison time that does not exceed 5 years.
Stealing and Selling Private Information/Products Owned by a Business or Corporation
As dictated by Florida Statute Title XLVI Chapter 812.081(2), any person who willingly and intentionally steals a trade secret from a business/corporation or attempts to steal that trade secret with an intention to sell this item for personal gain (with an attempt to copy this product) will be charged with a 3rd-degree felony, punishable by a $5,000 fine and/or jail time that does not exceed 5 years.
Keep in mind that, if the person attempted to return these trade secrets or had intentions to return these objects, this information cannot be used as a means of defense.
The Various Theft Crimes Prosecuted in Florida
Pursuant to Florida law, there are a variety of theft-related charges that a prosecutor can pursue against an accused, which includes:
- Dealing in stolen property. Under Florida Statutes Section 812.019, it is a second-degree felony if a person traffics in property that he or she should have known or knew was unlawfully taken.
- False information to a pawn broker. Under Florida Statute Section 539.001, it is a crime in Florida to provide false information of ownership of property to a pawnbroker. It is also a chargeable offense to provide false identification information to a pawn broker.
- Failure to return rented property. If a person rents or leases property and does not return it following proper notice, then he or she can face prosecution under Florida Statutes Section 812.155 for leasing, hiring, or obtaining equipment or personal property with the intention of defrauding or failing to return leased or hired equipment or personal property.
- Robbery. Under Florida Statutes Section 812.13, the term “robbery” means “the taking of money or other property which may be the subject of larceny from the person or custody of another, with intent to either permanently or temporarily deprive the person or the owner of the money or other property, when in the course of the taking there is the use of force, violence, assault, or putting in fear.”
- Scheme to defraud. If a person enters a plea for this offense, then he or she will not be able to seal his or her criminal record. As a crime of dishonestly, this offense is defined pursuant to Florida law as the continuing or ongoing series of actions that are perpetrated by an offender with the intent to defraud another person using representations, false or fraudulent promises, or through the intentional misrepresentation of a future act.
- Burglary. Pursuant to Florida Statutes Section 810.02, “burglary” means“entering a dwelling, a structure, or a conveyance with the intent to commit an offense therein, unless the premises are at the time open to the public or the defendant is licensed or invited to enter; or, notwithstanding a licensed or invited entry, remaining in a dwelling, structure, or conveyance surreptitiously, with the intent to commit an offense therein; after permission to remain therein has been withdrawn, with the intent to commit an offense therein; or to commit or attempt to commit a forcible felony.”
Sentencing for Theft Offenses are Contingent Upon the Value of the Property Taken
Under Florida law, there are varying types of punishment that are contingent upon the value of the item stolen. These are as follows:
First-Degree Grant Theft– if an item taken is worth $100,000 or greater, then the crime will be chargeable as first-degree Grand Theft, which is a felony in the first degree that carries with it a maximum jail term of up to 30 years imprisonment and a monetary fine not to exceed $10,000.
Second-Degree Grand Theft– if the value of item taken is worth greater than $20,000 but less than $100,000, then the crime with constitute second-degree Grand Theft, which is a second-degree felony that is associated with a maximum jail term of fifteen years and a monetary fine not to exceed $10,000.
Third-Degree Grand Theft– if the value of the item taken is worth more than $750 but less than $20,000, then the crime will be classified as third-degree Grand Theft, which is a third-degree felony that carries with it a maximum jail term of five years and a monetary fine not to exceed $5,000. It is also third-degree Grand Theft if the item taken is a stop sign, gun, fire extinguisher, firearm, or rifle.
Felony Theft– if a person has been convicted of two previous theft offenses, then he or she may face third-degree felony charges.
First-Degree Petit Theft– if the property is valued over $100 but less than $750, the resulting crime will qualify as first-degree petit theft, which carries with it a prison term of twelve months in prison and a $1,000 monetary fine.
Second-Degree Petit Theft– if the value of the item taken is worth less than $100, then the accused may face charges for second-degree petit theft, which is punishable by 60 days in prison and a monetary fine of $500.
Paying Supplemental Fines for Theft and Damages
Florida Statute Title XLVI Chapter 812.032 dictates that any person who is convicted of stealing or attempting to steal property or inflicted damage or injuries on the property and/or victim will also face additional charges (besides those attached to original charges). Overall, the court will order the culprit to pay a fine that is not higher than 2 times the gross value obtained or destroyed as well as a payment for investigation and prosecution.
Determining a Valid Case for Theft
As indicated by the Florida Statutes, Chapter XLVI, § 812.014, instructions listed for members of a Criminal Jury highlighted in Case 14.1, members of the court must prove (without any shred of doubt) that the defendant:
- Willingly, intentionally, and illegally took or attempted to take/use any form of property owned by the victim.
- Had every intention of taking the property from the victim to keep him/her from wielding any authority and ownership over it.
- Used the property to his/her advantage.
If the jury determines the culprit is guilty of theft, the members of the court must also determine (without any shred of doubt) that:
- During the course of the theft, the culprit had used a motor vehicle (not simply as a getaway vehicle) as part of the process of committing the crime.
- Inflicted more than $1,000-worth of damages on the property.
Determining a Valid Case for Trafficking Stolen Property
As indicated by the Florida Statutes, Chapter XLVI, § 812.019(1), instructions listed for members of a Criminal Jury highlighted in Case 14.2, members of the court must prove (without any shred of doubt) that the defendant:
- Made an effort to traffic the stolen property.
- Was fully aware that the property was stolen or should have known this fact.
Determining a Valid Case for Dealing Stolen Property
As indicated by the Florida Statutes, Chapter XLVI, § 812.019(2), instructions listed for members of a Criminal Jury highlighted in Case 14.3, members of the court must prove (without any shred of doubt) that the defendant:
- Originated, organized, and supervised the process of stealing property.
- Took part in trafficking the stolen property.
Determining a Valid Case for Stealing Merchandise from a Store
As indicated by the Florida Statutes, Chapter XLVI, § 812.015(8), instructions listed for members of a Criminal Jury highlighted in Case 14.4, members of the court must prove (without any shred of doubt) that the defendant:
- Carried away items (store merchandise), changed/removed labels from the product, transferred these items from one carrying device to another, and/or took a shopping cart from the premises of a store.
- Intentionally took the items in an attempt to keep these items from the merchant.
In the event that the jury determines the former factors, the court must also prove (without any shred of doubt), as pertinent to the case in question, that:
- The defendant singularly (or in a group) supervised all activities surrounding this theft.
- The defendant stole items from multiple locations in a period of 48 hours.
- The defendant worked with additional people to create a distraction for the merchant in an attempt to steal the items in question.
- The defendant purchased a box or other container that had materials not intended for sale in this box.
- The merchandise retained a value of $300 or higher.
Determining a Valid Case for Dealing Stolen Property
As indicated by the Florida Statutes, Chapter XLVI, § 825.103, instructions listed for members of a Criminal Jury highlighted in Case 14.9, members of the court must prove (without any shred of doubt) that:
- The victim was an elderly man/woman (and/or disabled).
- The defendant stole the victim’s property or made an attempt to steal this property or funds.
- The defendant stole this property in an intentional and willing attempt to momentarily/permanently keep the property/funds from the victim to deprive him/her from ownership rights and use it for any personal gains.
Grounds for Defense in a Theft Case in Florida
A defendant has grounds for defense if he/she honestly believed he/she had the legal right to maintain ownership over the purportedly stolen property.
If the court is completely unsure of whether or not the defendant was fully aware that (even in a situation where this individual was mistaken) he or she did not have the right to maintain ownership over this property, the court may not find this individual guilty of theft crimes.
Need a Florida Theft Crime Lawyer? Call (888) 484-5057
If you were charged with a theft crime in Florida, time is not on your side. The prosecution is already building their case. If convicted, not only can you face heavy fines and a long imprisonment, but also the charge goes on your permanent record. It can ruin your future plans including school, employment, child custody, and more. If you have been convicted of a theft crime, it is important that you reach out to our team of Florida criminal defense attorneys. We can examine your situation during a free case review and inform you of your options. We can advocate on your behalf and can make sure your rights are protected.