Have you been accused of (or charged with) the crime of theft? In Florida, theft is a felony offense in some circumstances, and convicted offenders could face significant penalties that include a term of imprisonment, fines, and more. Further, a conviction could have a negative influence on how you are perceived in your community, which could seriously affect how easy it is for you to integrate socially and secure a thriving career.
Though theft may seem like a straightforward offense, there are many arguments against the imposition of criminal liability in theft scenarios. Let’s take a closer look at some of the defenses that you can assert.
Theft demands intent. If you did not intend to “steal” the victim’s property, then you cannot be found criminally liable. This operates on two levels, primarily: 1) you did not know that the property belonged to the defendant, or 2) you thought that you had permission to take possession of the property.
For example, if you can introduce evidence to show that you took the victim’s bag because you thought that it was your own, then you might be able to avoid criminal liability. To support your defense, you’d want to present evidence indicating that the bag was similar (or the same) to the one belonging to you, and that there was reason to believe that your bag had somehow left your possession prior to the incident.
Permission Was Granted
Theft cannot occur if you have been given permission (by the owner of the property at-issue) to take the property. Permission may be either express or implied — in other words, there needn’t be a verbal or written confirmation of the owner’s consent. For example, if the victim nodded in response to your request to borrow their car for the week, then the court will evaluate that evidence (in light of other factors) and may determine that it was reasonable to assume that permission had been granted.
Property Belongs to You
Though not often, some theft charges are mistakenly brought due to a misperception about the ownership of the property at-issue. Police might be looking for a rare stolen item, and you might match the suspect’s description, thus leading to an investigation and subsequent theft charges. If you can introduce evidence that clearly establishes that the “stolen” property belongs to you, however, then you will be able to avoid liability — in some unfortunate theft cases, the government simply gets it wrong. This is particularly notable in cases where various circumstantial factors make it seem as though you have committed theft (upon initial impressions).
If you have been charged with a crime, it’s important that you consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. With the aid of a qualified attorney, you will have the resources and guidance necessary to investigate the charges, develop an effective case strategy, and potentially negotiate a plea bargain with prosecutors to minimize your exposure to criminal liability.