Crime of Theft in Florida
In Florida, the crime of theft occurs when a person:
- Unlawfully obtains or endeavors to obtain property belonging to another person; and
- Possesses the intent to deprive the victim of his or her property, or to appropriate that property for someone who is not entitled to it.
Theft can entail any situation where an individual takes something that belongs to a business or someone else, either temporarily or permanently, without permission (including shoplifting, as known as retail theft). A conviction can lead to serious penalties, so it is crucial to seek competent legal defense if you find yourself charged with theft.
DEGREES OF THEFT
In the State of Florida theft charges are broken down into two categories: petit theft and grand theft. As you can probably tell from the name, petit theft is a less serious charge and is generally a misdemeanor. Grand theft, on the other hand, is classified as a felony, and comes with harsh punishments if you are convicted. Petit theft and grand theft are further divided into different degrees.
SECOND DEGREE PETIT THEFT
Second degree petit theft is the lowest form of theft, and comes with relatively minimal penalties. Second degree petit theft is charged when someone:
- Steals something of value that is worth less than $100; AND
- The defendant has no prior theft convictions.
Because second degree petit theft is a second degree misdemeanor, the maximum penalty is 60 days of jail time and a $500 fine.
FIRST DEGREE PETIT THEFT
First degree petit theft is the most harshly punished form of non-felony theft. You can be charged with first degree petit theft if:
- You steal property worth at least $100 but less than $300; OR
- You have 1 prior theft conviction of any kind.
First degree petit theft is a first degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in prison and a $1,000 fine.
THIRD DEGREE GRAND THEFT
Third degree grand theft is the lowest form of felony theft. In order for someone to be charged with third degree grand theft, that person must:
- Steal $300-$20,000 worth of property; OR
- Steal a will or other testamentary instrument, or any of several regulated objects (including fire extinguishers, stop signs, and controlled substances); OR
- Have 2 prior theft convictions of any kind.
Third degree grand theft is a third degree felony, which comes with a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
SECOND DEGREE GRAND THEFT
Second degree grand theft occurs when a defendant:
- Steals $20,000-$100,000 worth of property; OR
- Steals shipping cargo worth under $50,000; OR
- Steals law enforcement or emergency medical equipment worth more than $300.
Second degree grand theft is a second degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
FIRST DEGREE GRAND THEFT
First degree grand theft is the most severely punished form of theft in Florida. You can be charged with first degree grand theft if:
- The property stolen is worth more than $100,000; OR
- The property stolen is shipping cargo worth more than $50,000.
First degree grand theft is a first degree felony, punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Additionally, there is a minimum sentence of 21 months in prison.
In addition to the penalties listed above, the government may impose other punishments in certain circumstances. For example, your license can be suspended for 6 months for petit theft, and suspended another year for any following offenses.
Theft of any crime is also known as a “crime of dishonesty.” This means a theft conviction brings with it a negative association and can impact your chances of getting a job, going to college, or passing a background check.
In light of the severe penalties that may follow a conviction of theft, it can be essential that you hire a skilled lawyer to defend your case. Here are just a few examples of defenses a lawyer may use to fight a charge of petit or grand theft.
If you indicated a complete and voluntary renunciation of the criminal intent to commit theft, a defense could be made that there was no crime actually committed. Your withdrawal from committing the crime must be voluntary to have a valid defense, however. For example, if you were unable to commit theft because the victim acted in self-defense, a defense of voluntary abandonment would be unlikely to succeed.
Simply put, the defendant was under the complete assumption that they had permission to use or take the item allegedly stolen.
Good Faith Possession
According to Florida Law, a person who takes an object with the good faith belief in the right to the item lacks the necessary intent to commit theft. Without this element of intent, a prosecutor cannot prove you were guilty of theft.
Florida only forbids the stealing of “property.” An item placed by the road for trash collectors to pick up is deemed valueless under the law and therefore cannot be stolen.
There is an abundance of possible defenses for shoplifting or retail theft. Some examples include:
- Poor video quality
- Mistakenly leaving the store with items in bag or cart
- False accusations and no camera footage
- Being set up by co-defendant
- Stolen items not found in possession of the accused