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Florida law uses the term “theft” to describe multiple property crimes, including petit theft, grand theft, burglary, fraud, and other offenses. Almost every “theft” crime, whether a misdemeanor or felony, are considered by the Florida criminal justice system to be “crimes of dishonesty or untruthfulness.” A conviction for any crime of dishonesty can be used against you when you apply for a job, during a background check, or if you ever testify in a court of law. Each Sarasota theft crime defense lawyer at Fowler Law Group has extensive experience with handling all types of theft related charges.
The crime(s) of petit/grand theft occur when a person takes another person’s property without consent and with the intention of temporarily or permanently depriving the person of the property.
- Petit theft involves the theft of money or property valued at less than $300. When a person commits petit theft, they will be charged with a misdemeanor offense.
- Grand theft involves money or property valued at over $300.
- In cases where a person is charged with stealing property from a retail merchant, these types of charges may be referred to as shoplifting or retail theft.
- White collar crimes such as embezzlement are other types of theft offenses.
There are various degrees of grand theft, and the degrees depend upon the value of the property stolen. For example:
- First-degree grand theft: Theft of property valued at $100,000 or more, the commission of grand theft involving a vehicle (other than as a getaway vehicle), or commission of grand theft resulting in property damage in excess of $1,000
- Second-degree grand theft: Theft of property valued at $20,000 or more (but less than $100,000), theft of emergency medical equipment valued at $300 or more, or theft of law enforcement equipment valued at $300 or more
- Third-degree grand theft: Theft of property valued at $300 or more (but less than $20,000), theft of a will, theft of a firearm, or theft of a motor vehicle
These are just some of the most common grand theft charges. There are other possible charges as well.
When a person is charged with grand theft, they will be charged with a felony. The legal consequences of being convicted of a petite or grand theft can vary depending on the type of theft crime committed and a person’s criminal history.
Burglary is a type of theft crime that occurs when a person unlawfully enters another person’s property or premises with the intent to commit a crime. Like petit/grand theft, there are varying degrees of burglary depending on the nature of the property or premises that was alleged to have been entered. The penalties for being convicted of a burglary offense can also vary depending on whether the property or premises was occupied at the time the alleged burglary occurred.
Auto theft occurs when a person takes another person’s motor vehicle without permission. Under Florida law, a theft of this nature occurs when a person steals another person’s car, truck, motorcycle, or other type of motor vehicle without the intention of returning the vehicle to its rightful owner. In the state of Florida, auto theft is usually considered a felony offense, and if resulting in conviction, may require the defendant to spend a significant amount of time in prison.
While there are several ways that prosecutors can pursue charges for theft crimes under Florida law, there are also several possible defenses to theft charges. When you schedule a confidential consultation at Fowler Law Group, your Sarasota theft crime defense lawyer will sit down with you to examine your case and determine what defenses you have available.
Some examples of defenses we may be able to assert on your behalf include:
Florida’s theft statute, Section 812.014, states that “[a] person commits theft if he or she knowingly obtains or uses . . . the property of another . . . .” If you did not knowingly obtain or use someone else’s property, you are not guilty of theft. For example, maybe you picked up someone else’s property believing that it belonged to a member of your family. Or, maybe you left a store not realizing that the cashier didn’t get all of the merchandise out of your cart. Whatever the case may be, if you did not know you were taking something that belonged to someone else, you do not deserve to be labeled a thief.
Section 812.014 of the Florida Statute also requires prosecutors to prove that you took someone else’s property (or attempted to take someone else’s property), “with intent to, either temporarily or permanently: (a) Deprive the other person of a right to the property or a benefit from the property[; or,] (b) Appropriate the property to [your] own use or to the use of any person not entitled to the use of the property.”
Even if you knew you were picking up or using someone else’s property, if you did not intend to take the property away from its owner, you are not guilty of theft. For example, if you believed you had the owner’s permission to use the property, then you were not acting with intent to deprive. If you believed the property had been abandoned, this could provide a defense as well.
If you are facing a theft charge, you don’t need to prove you lacked knowledge or intent. Instead, prosecutors must prove that you had both knowledge and intent. If prosecutors cannot prove your subjective state of mind, then they cannot meet their burden of proving your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
When investigating possible crimes, the police have a duty to respect suspects’ constitutional rights. If the police violated your constitutional rights by stopping you without reasonable suspicion or conducting an unlawful warrantless search, this could provide a defense in your case.
The fact that the police violated your constitutional rights does not automatically entitle you to walk free. However, it may prevent the prosecution from presenting the evidence obtained in violation of your rights. If this means the prosecution doesn’t have enough evidence to prove your guilt, then you may be able to avoid a conviction.
Let’s say you committed a theft. If you know you are guilty, is it still worth hiring an attorney for your case? Absolutely.
Here are five ways an attorney may be able to help you even if you committed petit theft, grand theft, or burglary:
- Determining if you actually committed a crime: You should never assume that you have committed a crime. Florida’s criminal statutes are complex, and the theft statute establishes several “elements” that prosecutors must prove in order to secure a conviction. Even if you took someone else’s property, it is possible that you did not commit a theft under Florida law.
- Making sure your charge is appropriate: Since the threshold for a grand theft charge is $300 in Florida, many people end up getting charged with grand theft. But, even assuming you committed a theft, is the property you stole actually worth more than $300? Or, if you are being charged with first- or second-degree grand theft, is the property actually worth the amount prosecutors claim? If it is not possible for you to avoid penalties entirely, an attorney can make sure your charge is appropriate, and this could significantly reduce the penalties that are on the table.
- Negotiating a plea bargain: Theft crimes carry severe penalties under Florida law. If you are guilty, an attorney can work to negotiate a plea bargain on your behalf. Negotiating a plea bargain provides you with a certain outcome, and it affords the opportunity to avoid the most severe penalties that can be imposed.
- Helping you obtain pretrial diversion: Pretrial diversion is an option for individuals charged with certain theft crimes in Florida. If you are eligible for pretrial diversion and you complete the program successfully, your theft charge will be erased from your criminal record.
- Asserting all defenses you have available: Whether in plea bargain negotiations, during pretrial proceedings, or at trial, an attorney can assert all defenses you have available. If the prosecution lacks the evidence it needs to prove your guilt, then it doesn’t matter if you committed a crime. You are entitled to a “not guilty” verdict, and an attorney can fight to make sure you receive a just result.
If you have been charged with a theft crime in Florida, it is imperative that you speak with a qualified attorney who has experience with handling these types of cases. Without assistance from a skilled criminal defense legal team, your chances of receiving a favorable outcome are significantly reduced. By working with Fowler Law Group, you can find comfort in the fact that you will receive the guidance, respect, and compassion you need to ensure the best possible outcome to your case.
At Fowler Law Group, our legal team understands the fear and uncertainty that comes with being charged with a crime, and we make it a point to effectively communicate with our clients throughout the entire legal process.
For more information on how our Sarasota theft crime defense lawyers can help, call (941) 900-3100 now to schedule your free and confidential case evaluation.
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