Grand Theft Charge Defense Lawyer in Florida
Under Florida Statutes Section 812.014, the offense of Grand Theft occurs when an individual unlawfully takes the property of another that has a value of $750 or higher. To prove the crime of Grand Theft, the prosecution must establish that the property taken was worth $750 or greater with the intention of:
- Depriving the individual a right or benefit of the property; or
- Appropriating the property of another for personal use or for the use of another individual who is not entitled to use the property.
Proving the Value of the Property Stolen
The prosecution establishes the value of the absconded property with evidence of the original purchase price as well as the amount or percentage of depreciation since the purchase of the property, its manner of being used, the quality of the item at the time it was taken, and its condition. If the prosecutor cannot prove that the property had a value of $750 or greater, there will be insufficient evidence to support a conviction of more than petit theft. In Florida, petit theft is defined as the taking, with intent to steal, property valued below $750.
The Requisite Intent to Steal Property
Grand theft constitutes a “specific intent” offense, which means that the accused must not only abscond the property of another individual, he or she must have the specific intent of stealing the property. Meaning, that the accused intentionally deprived the victim of his or her rights to the property. In order to convict a person of Grand Theft, there must be sufficient evidence from which the jury may reasonably infer the intention of stealing.
Contact a Seasoned Attorney at Musca Law Today
If you are facing Grand Theft charges in Florida, it is critical that you meet with a seasoned Florida Grand Theft defense attorney to learn more about your legal rights and options, as well as the defenses that may be available in your case. We are available 24/7, so don’t wait: contact us today at (888) 484-5057.
Grand Theft Penalties
There are three degrees of Grand Theft under Florida law. As the value of the property increases, so does that penalties. The three degrees of Grand Theft in Florida are third-degree Grand Theft, second-degree Grand Theft, and third-degree Grand Theft.
Grand Theft of the Third-Degree
Third-degree Grand Theft is committed if the property stolen is:
- Valued at $750 or greater but worth less than $20,000;
- A fire extinguisher;
- A commercially farmed animal;
- A stop sign;
- A construction sign;
- A controlled substance;
- A firearm;
- A motor vehicle;
- Anhydrous ammonia;
- Any amount of citrus fruit consisting of 2,000 or more individual pieces of fruit;
- An estate planning documentation such as a will, codicil or other testamentary instruments; or
- Anything of value that is taken by a restaurant or hotel worker during the course of their employment.
Third-degree Grant Theft constitutes a third-degree felony and is assigned either a Level 2, 3 or 4 offense under Florida’s Criminal Punishment Code. If a person is convicted of third-degree Grand Theft, a judge can impose the following penalties:
- Up to five years in jail;
- Five years of probation; and
- A monetary fine not to exceed $5,000.
Grand Theft of the Second Degree
Second-degree Grand Theft is committed when the property stolen is:
- worth more than $20,000 but less than $100,000
- Is cargo for shipping that has a value of less than $50,000;
- Law enforcement equipment worth at or over $300; or
- Is emergency medical equipment worth over at or over $300.
Second-degree Grand Theft is a second-degree felony in Florida, which qualifies as a Level 6 offense under Florida’s Criminal Punishment Code. If a person is convicted of second-degree Grand Theft, a judge can impose the following penalties:
- A maximum of fifteen years in jail;
- Probation for fifteen years; and
- A monetary fine not to exceed $10,000.
Grand Theft of the First Degree
First-degree Grand Theft is committed when the property stolen is:
- Worth over $100,000; or
- Cargo for shipping that has a value of over $50,000.
First-degree Grand Theft is a first-degree felony in Florida, which qualifies as a Level 7 offense under Florida’s Criminal Punishment Code. If a person is convicted of first-degree Grand Theft, a judge can impose the following penalties:
- A minimum of 21 months in jail;
- Probation for 30 years; and
- A monetary fine not to exceed $10,000.
Grand Theft Statutes of Limitation
Under Florida Statute Section 812.035(10), there is a five year statute of limitations that is applicable to the offense of Grand Theft. This means that a person can raise a claim for Grand Theft up to five years following the commission of the offense. This controls over the general statute of limitations that applies to all criminal cases pursuant to Florida Statutes Section 775.15.
Grand Theft Defenses in Florida
In addition to the pretrial and trial defenses that may be asserted in a Florida criminal case, there are various defenses to the offense of Grand Theft, which are (i) equal ownership; (ii) good faith belief; (iii) mere presence; (iv) valueless property; and (v) voluntary abandonment.
A person cannot face a conviction for Grand Theft in the event that he or she takes property that is co-owned unless the co-owner who is claiming Grand Theft had a superior legal interest in the item stolen.
Good Faith Belief
Under Florida law, the offense of Grand Theft requires evidence that the taking of the property was done so with the intent to steal. As such, if a person who takes certain property with a good faith believe that they have a right to it does not have the specific intent necessary to commit Grand Theft. Therefore, it is a defense to Grand Theft if a person who allegedly stole property has a well-founded believe in one’s right to it.
In Florida, being present at the scene of the crime, having knowledge that a Grand Theft is occurring, or even having suspicious behavior following the commission of the offense is not sufficient, standing alone, to prove that a person participated in the crime. Therefore, if you are with a family member at a store and he or she commits a Grand Theft crime, you cannot face a conviction as an accomplice unless you did something to participate in the offense.
It is not possible to steal trash in Florida because the law only targets the stealing of “property,” which is anything of value. Hence, if a person takes an item that has been left on the side of the road, then it is presumed to have no value and can be taken without consequence.
It is defense to the offense of Grand Theft if someone abandons an attempt to steal property, indicating a voluntary and complete renunciation of the criminal intent.
Involuntary vs. Voluntary Abandonment
While voluntarily abandoning stolen property is a defense to Grand Theft, involuntarily abandonment is not a viable defense. What distinguishes voluntary and involuntary abandonment is the reason why the property was abandoned. Specifically, voluntary abandonment happens when a person, unprompted by encountered circumstances, consciously withdraws his or her attempt to commit Grand Theft.
Conversely, involuntary abandonment pertains to when a person abandons property by unanticipated circumstances that result in the person withdrawing from attempting grand theft (i.e., police arrive at the scene of the crime and the suspect abandons property as a result).
Valuation of Property that is Stolen
In order for a person to be convicted for Grand Theft, proof of value must be established beyond a reasonable doubt. The general formula that is used to determine value in Grand Theft matters is market value. Under Florida Statutes Section 812.012(10), “value” means the market value of the property at the time and place of the offense or, if such cannot be satisfactorily ascertained, the cost of replacement of the property within a reasonable time after the offense. Furthermore, the statute states, “[i]f the value of property cannot be ascertained, the trier of fact may find the value to be not less than a certain amount; if no such minimum value can be ascertained, the value is an amount less than $100.”
Original Purchase Price
In Florida, it is well-settled law that testimony of the original purchase price of absconded property is not sufficient, alone, to establish the value of the property at the time when the offense was committed. While the original purchase price can be a factor in determining value at the time the offense occurred, the property’s general condition, quality when purchased, and the percentage of depreciation or appreciation must also be determined.
The Replacement Cost of the Property
Where the market value is not able to be established at the time of the theft, it may be determined with evidence of the replacement cost of the item taken. However, there needs to be further evidence submitted to adduce that the replacement item was similar in worth to the property that was stolen.
Retail and Speculative Value
The retail and speculative value of property is not sufficient to determine the worth of a stolen item during the prosecution of a Grand Theft crime.
Grand Theft Auto Charges in Florida
As noted above, it is a felony offense to take property that has a value of $750 or more, also known as “Grand Theft” in Florida. When a motor vehicle is stolen, it is known as Grand Theft Auto. Various factors come to play that determine the outcome of a Grand Theft Auto case, including the intent of the suspect, the valuation of the property taken, and the circumstances surrounding the taking.
If you are facing Grand Theft Auto charges in Florida, you must speak with a seasoned Florida Grand Theft Auto defense attorney as soon as possible to learn more about your legal rights, the defenses that may apply in your case, and the next steps moving forward. Contact Musca Law today at (888) 484-5057 to speak with one of our skilled Florida criminal defense lawyers. We look forward to the opportunity of making a difference for you.
Under Florida Statutes Section 812.014(2), Grand Theft Auto is typically categorized as a third-degree felony. In some instances, the state can seek an enhancement of the charges resulting in either second-degree or first-degree felony conviction. For example, if a vehicle’ value is greater than $20,000 but less than $100,000, the crime will be charged as a felony in the second-degree. It is also a second-degree felony if the taking happened following the Governor’s declaration of a state of emergency.
If a vehicle has a value of $100,000 or greater, if the automobile was a semitrailer deployed by law enforcement, or if the suspect used the automobile in assisting him or her to commit a crime and causes damage to another’s real property, the crime will be categorized as a first-degree felony.
Penalties for Grand Theft Auto in Florida
The value of the vehicle taken is what dictates the potential penalties imposed. Specifically, if a vehicle has a value of less than $20,000, then the applicable penalty is up to five years in jail, five years in probation, and a $10,000 monetary fine. If a vehicle has a value between $20,000 and $100,000, then the penalty is fifteen years in jail, fifteen years of probation, and a $10,000 monetary fine. For vehicles that are worth more than $100,000, getaway vehicles that result in damage, or law enforcement trailers, there is a maximum 30 year prison sentence, and a $10,000 monetary fine.
Defenses to Grand Theft Auto
At Musca Law, our skilled team of Florida criminal defense lawyers understands the nuances of Grand Theft Auto criminal proceedings and the defenses that apply in these challenging cases. Some defense that apply are as follows:
· The absence of specific intent;
· You believed that you had permission to take the automobile, such as when another person loans it to you;
· You were sold a vehicle that was stolen;
· You believed that you had the right to take the vehicle; or
· You acted pursuant to duress or necessity (however, this defense will not apply if you take an automobile after the Governor declares a state of emergency).
Our attorneys can also challenge the value of the automobile stolen in order to seek a reduction of the penalties. With your future in jeopardy, it is vital that you immediately hire a seasoned Florida theft defense attorney from Musca Law.
Contact Musca Law Today. Your Life and Your Liberty Depend Upon It!
If you are facing Grand Theft charges in Florida, contact our seasoned Florida Grand Theft defense attorneys at Musca Law as soon as possible in order to preserve your legal rights and interests. Our firm’s attorneys are among The National Trial Lawyers – Top 100 Trial Lawyers, included in the 2012 Florida Super Lawyers® for criminal defense, and boast 10.0 Superb Avvo ratings. We know how to protect your future. We are skilled, experienced, tenacious, and relentless when it comes to defending our clients.
Our seasoned Florida criminal defense attorneys work zealously to exploit the weaknesses in the prosecution’s case and develop a strategic defense for our clients. Our record of success in and out of the courtroom speaks for itself. To learn more about how Musca Law can make a difference for you, call (888) 484-5057 today.