In the State of Florida, theft crimes vary considerably regarding the severity of legal consequences and charges. The general crime of theft is governed by Florida Statute § 812.014. This statute details the elements of the crime of theft and sets a number of threshold values for determining the type of theft offense committed with each case. Theft offenses differ based on the value of the stolen items as well as the manner in which the items were taken.
Whether charged with the lower form of theft or a serious felony violation, every defendant facing a theft charge should hire an experienced attorney. If you have been charged with theft crimes in Florida, contact a criminal defense attorney with The Law Office of Silverman, Mack & Associates to discuss your case. Our attorneys can defend defendants who are accused of civil and criminal theft charges. We specialize in the criminal law practice area and can help protect your rights with any type of theft case. Contact us today for a free initial consultation.
What Are The Basic Elements Of Theft?
The basic elements of theft include knowingly obtaining or using or endeavoring to use the property of another with the intent to either temporarily or permanently deprive the other person of a right to the property or a benefit from the property or appropriate the property to his or her own use to the use of any person not entitled to use of the property. The definition of theft in Florida law is subjective and can encompass almost any action wherein someone deprives the owner of the property to the use of the property, even temporarily. Further, the definition of theft necessarily includes attempted theft or endeavoring to use. Contact us today to speak with a Gainesville attorney about your theft case.
What Are The Different Types Of Theft?
There are various levels of theft. The lowest form of theft is petit theft of the second degree. This is the theft of property that is not specified in the statute — such as a fire extinguisher or a stop sign — and having a value of less than $100. The property stolen must not fall into any other category in the statute, which is riddled with exceptions and enhancements for certain types of items or property. For example, if a person stole a legal document, gun, motor vehicle, commercially farmed animal or a controlled substance, the offense carries a minimum charge of third-degree felony, regardless of the property's actual value.
Petit theft of the first degree is defined as the theft of any item valued between $100 and $300. In regard to retail theft, the price of the stolen item determines the value. A situation in which the theft is in a non-retail context, the value of the items is determined by assessing a fair market value of the property.
A vast majority of theft cases prosecuted are for retail theft or shoplifting. Most stores, especially the larger chain stores, have excellent camera systems and loss prevention officers. This means that if caught committing retail theft, there is usually a video of the entire incident, from the time the person entered the store to the time they attempted to leave. The incident is typically downloaded and provided to the Office of the State Attorney. In cases without a camera, one can still be prosecuted based on the testimony of an eyewitness. Further, even if there was a tape and it was either not collected by the police or was eventually destroyed by the store (for example, it was recorded over by the recording system), one can still be prosecuted based on the testimony of witnesses.
If the majority of shoplifting cases, major department or chain stores not only prosecute someone who steals from the store but will pursue the crime with a civil suit as well. This means that not only will a person face criminal charges, but that person will also be sued for civil theft, which includes a claim for damages three times the amount of the item stolen or attempted to be stolen, as outlined by Florida Statute § 771.11(1). The statute also includes provisions for minimum damages of $200 and reasonable costs and attorney’s fees for the victim of the theft. The only advantage of this statute for the accused is that it raises the level of proof required in the civil context to that of clear and convincing evidence instead of a preponderance of the evidence.
According to Florida Statute § 812.133, “carjacking means the taking of a motor vehicle which may be the subject of larceny from the person or custody of another, with intent to either permanently or temporarily deprive the person or the owner of the motor vehicle, when in the course of the taking there is the use of force, violence, assault, or putting in fear.” The penalty for a carjacking offense is up to 30 years of prison time and fines up to $10,000. The penalties associated with carjacking increase in severity if a firearm or another deadly weapon is used or possessed during the crime — up to life in prison and fines up to $15,000.
Grand theft applies when stolen property is valued at more than $300. A crime that is considered to be grand theft can be first-, second-, or third-degree, from which the category depends on the property’s value.
First-Degree Grand Theft
First-degree grand theft is punishable as a first-degree felony and applies to the following.
- Any property valued at $100,000 or more
- A semi-trailer that was deployed by a law enforcement officer
- Cargo valued at $50,000 or more that has entered the stream of interstate or intrastate commerce between the shippers loading platform and the receiver’s loading dock
- Grand theft in which a motor vehicle is used to damage real property
- Grand theft in which $1,000 or more of damage was caused to property
Second-Degree Grand Theft
Second-degree grand theft is punishable as a second-degree felony and applies to the following.
- Any property valued at least $20,000 but less than $100,000
- Medical equipment valued at over $300
- Law enforcement equipment valued at over $300 taken from a vehicle and cargo valued at less than $50,000 that has entered the stream of interstate or intrastate commerce between the shippers loading platform and the receiver’s loading dock
Third-Degree Grand Theft
Third-degree grand theft is punishable as a third-degree felony and applies to the following.
- A firearm
- Any stop sign
- A motor vehicle
- Anhydrous ammonia
- Any controlled substance
- Property valued at least $300 but less than $20,000
- Any commercially farmed animal (including bee colonies)
- Anything taken from a posted construction site
- 2000 or more individual pieces of fruit
- A will or codicil (part of a will)
- Any fire extinguisher
What Are Enhancements To Theft Charges?
An enhancement in regard to theft crimes occurs when the legislature has singled-out a category of property or a situation for an increased penalty than other categories of property to which the item is similar. As the statute stands at this time, some enhanced items include stop signs, controlled substances, fire extinguishers, firearms, commercially farmed animals, any items from a dwelling or from the curtilage of a dwelling and wills and codicils. Most of these items carry increased penalties for reasons intended to benefit society — increased penalties imposed on the theft of a gun instead of the theft of a loaf of bread.
Regardless of the perceived benefit to enhancements of theft charges, individuals who are convicted of a crime in which the theft category is enhanced face severe charges. What’s more, the crime itself can be enhanced by prior convictions. This means if an individual commits even a misdemeanor petit theft of an item costing less than a dollar, he or she may be charged with a felony if he or she has prior theft convictions. One prior conviction makes any theft at least a first degree misdemeanor, while two prior convictions result in any theft becoming a minimum charge of a third-degree felony.