In Florida, a person commits a theft if they knowingly obtain or use, or endeavor to obtain or use, the property of another with the intent to permanently or temporarily deprive the other person of a right to the property or a benefit from the property. That is the legal definition, but within those words lie a number of important distinctions about what you may have taken, and what kind of punishment is associated with each level of crime.
This article is intended to act as a guide of sorts to the different types of Florida theft laws – and to help you make sense of what you might be up against as your case goes to trial. As you look through it, you will notice how many of the theft crimes include jail time. Severe punitive measures such as these are precisely why you want to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney early on.
Felony Thefts - Grand Theft
- Grand Theft Third Degree – The value of the property taken was over $300 but less than $20,000. Punishable by up to 5 years in prison.
- Grand Theft Second Degree – The value of the property taken was between $20,000 and $100,000. Punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
- Grand Theft First Degree – This is the highest echelon, wherein the value of the property taken was over $100,000. Punishable by up to 30 years in prison.
- Dealing in Stolen Property – The law says, “Any person who traffics in or endeavors to traffic in property that they should have known was stolen” has committed a second degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. This is true no matter what the value of the stolen property is.
- Elderly Exploitation – This term refers to an attempt to defraud someone over the age of 65 out of money. the degree of felony depends upon the amount of money that changed hands.
- Fraud or Organized Scheme to Defraud – Fraud crimes are automatic felonies as well, and can range from check fraud to elaborate schemes based on misinformation.
- Felony Theft By Prior Arrest – This is a three-strikes law, and dictates that if the person already has two prior thefts on record, the third arrest is a third degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison.
Misdemeanor Thefts - Petit Theft/Shoplifting
These are lesser crimes, and are usually broken down into the following sub-categories:
- Retail Theft (Shoplifting) – This is any theft from a store where the goods valued less than $300.
- Petty Theft – This is any theft at all whose value was less than $300.
Seek A Better Outcome For Your Criminal Case
No matter what the case, the goal of your lawyer is to protect your interests and prevent conviction. In Florida a number of courts may direct the accused into a diversion program rather than seeking prison time, and the key to such negotiations is to work with an experienced criminal attorney who understands how sentencing works. Any number of factors, including the accused person's history, may come into play during litigation and sentencing. Often retailers and other business owners are content if the accused person simply pays restitution on the value of stolen goods – again, this is a negotiation for your criminal attorney.
You also want to work with a seasoned attorney because it is important to keep the case off your permanent record. Many employers will not hire someone with prior convictions, and the legal implication of a conviction may continue to follow you for many years to come. An effective lawyer will fight doggedly to ensure that your outcome will ensure that you qualify to have your case expunged or sealed, protecting you from the headaches associated with “convicted criminal” status down the line.
Antonio Jimenez is an experienced criminal defense attorney based in Miami, Florida who understands the law in all its complexity, and who fights aggressively to protect his clients from wrongful conviction. Contact him today to discuss your options.