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Understanding Florida's Theft Law

The act of theft encompasses an accused person’s decision to use or take the property of another person without the owner’s authorization. The term “theft” describes a wide assortment of offenses against the personal property of others, including the acts of conversion, stealing, larceny and other similar crimes. Florida’s theft laws are somewhat complicated, primarily because they make a distinction between misdemeanor and felony thefts. Petit theft is a misdemeanor under Florida law, while grand theft is considered a felony. The distinction between petit theft and grand theft revolves around the value of the property that was taken and or used without proper owner authorization.

When prosecuting a theft crime, it must be established that the accused had the specific intent to utilize and/or take the property of another, in order to temporarily or permanently deprive the owner of use and/or possession of the taken property. This criminal intent must be shown to have been present at the time the property was taken by the accused. Theft of property valued at less than $300 is considered a petit theft, and is a misdemeanor. Theft when the property is valued between $300 and $20,000 is considered to be a third degree grand felony theft, and theft of valued property of $20,000 to $100,000 is considered grand theft in the second degree. Theft of property valued at over $100,000 is a first degree grand theft crime. Furthermore, when a motor vehicle was an instrument used in the commission of the theft, the crime is considered to be a first degree grand theft. Also when over $1,000 in property and/or premises damage occurs during the commission of the theft, the crime is considered a first degree theft.

Defenses and Penalties for Theft Crimes

Three main defenses can be presented by those who are accused of theft. First, an accused can claim that they were involuntarily intoxicated at the time they committed the theft. Second, it can be presented that the accused had the consent of the property owner. Third, the accused can claim that they had a good faith belief that they owned the property or had the right to possess the property that they were accused of taking.

If the above defenses are not enough, serious punishments can be imposed. Petit thefts are considered second degree misdemeanors punishable by a fine of up to $500 and imprisonment of up to sixty days. These punishments can be increased if the accused had one or more prior petit theft convictions. Grand theft in the third degree is punishable by imprisonment of up to five years and a fine of no more than $5,000. When grand theft is prosecuted as a second degree felony, the accused can be punished with a fine of up to $10,000 and imprisonment of up to fifteen years. A first degree grand theft is punishable with a fine of no more than $10,000 and up to thirty years of imprisonment.

Need a criminal attorney you can trust to represent you in a theft prosecution? Contact criminal defense attorney Jeffrey S. Weiner., P.A. in Miami today.

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