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Counterfeit Goods Under Florida Law

In Florida, it is a serious crime to knowingly and willfully manufacture, sell, or possess with intent to distribute counterfeit goods (FSA § 831.032). Counterfeit goods are items that display a trademark that is identical to or indistinguishable from a trademark of an entity that holds the legal rights to that mark. When such goods have the potential to harm consumers, the consequences can be even harsher. One Florida businessman found this out the hard way recently after being sentenced to nearly 3 years in prison for selling counterfeit Xanax, Viagra, and steroids.

Potential Penalties

The consequences of a conviction for counterfeiting vary in severity, depending on the value of the goods. Manufacture or sale of less than 100 items, worth less than $2,500, is a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. If the crime involves 100 to 1,000 counterfeit items, with a retail value of $2,500 to $20,000 is considered a third degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison, a $5,000 fine, or both. If 1,000 or more items, worth more than $20,000 are counterfeited, you could be charged with a second degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison, a $10,000 fine, or both.

In addition, fines of up to three times the retail value of the counterfeit goods can be levied by a court. If it is alleged that the counterfeit goods that you made or sold resulted in bodily injury to a consumer, you will have to defend yourself against second-degree felony charges. If the prosecution seeks to prove that someone lost their life as a result of the counterfeit goods that you manufactured or sold, there is a potential for a first-degree felony conviction, which can carry a sentence of up to 30 years in prison. For these charges, the prosecution would only have to show that you were negligent, and not that you purposely caused a death.

Repeat offenses are punished more harshly than first-time offenses, with one degree of severity added to the charges. So, if the value of the goods would usually trigger third-degree felony charges, a second-time offense would be charged as a second-degree felony.

If an investigation uncovers any amount of counterfeit goods, the government can seize the property in question without compensating the owner (FSA § 831.033). This is called forfeiture. A conviction for selling counterfeit goods can also result in an order from a judge to pay restitution to the trademark owner, amounting to the value of the property loss sustained. In addition, any profits earned off the counterfeit goods will be disgorged.

Get Help From an Experienced Defense Attorney

To discuss possible defenses to charges of counterfeiting, and to decide upon the best course of action for your case, the counsel of a knowledgeable white collar defense attorney is invaluable. A skilled lawyer can fight to reduce charges, or prevent them from being filed in the first place. If you are facing charges for counterfeiting, or suspect that you are under investigation, contact Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A. for a consultation.

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