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Federal Theft Charges

Theft Of Government Property

In addition to being against Florida law, theft can also qualify as a federal offense. This can have significant repercussions for defendants because federal courts tend to issue more severe sentences than their state counterparts. If you have been charged with the theft of government property, it is especially critical to seek the advice of an experienced federal criminal defense attorney in Miami who is familiar with federal law and can help you formulate a strong defense.

Elements Of Federal Theft

Under federal law, stealing government property is a distinct offense that requires a federal prosecutor to establish that a defendant knowingly stole, sold, or conveyed government funds, records, or other things of value. Furthermore, it is also unlawful to receive, conceal, or retain government property if the person knows it was stolen, but still intends to convert it for his or her gain.

What Qualifies As Government Property?

The federal government must be able to establish that it has sufficient interest in a specific piece of property in order to charge someone in federal court. If the federal prosecutors are unable to establish sufficient interest, the case will be deferred to state or local authorities. Whether the government has sufficient interest to trigger federal jurisdiction depends on the specific facts of each case. However, there are certain kinds of evidence that will almost always be enough to demonstrate sufficient federal interest. For instance, when the actual title is held by the U.S., the federal courts will have jurisdiction, regardless of who had possession of the property at the time it was taken. Alternatively, federal prosecutors can also establish federal jurisdiction by showing that the federal government maintained supervision and control over the funds or property at the time that they were stolen.

Property that has been found to be under the control of the government includes:

  • Military property issued by the U.S.
  • Government checks, as long as they have not been delivered to the payee
  • Property seized by the government
  • Information stored on a government computer
  • Government records
  • Information in a grand jury transcript
  • Property in the custody of a contractor working for the government, especially if the federal theft was on such a large scale that completion of the contract is impaired or it involves the theft of military weapons

In fact, a defendant can even be charged with theft of government property when he or she did not know that the property in question belonged to the government.

Defendants who are convicted of stealing government property face steep fines and up to 10 years in prison. However, if the value of the property taken, when combined, does not exceed $1,000, a defendant will be charged with a misdemeanor, which is punishable by a one-year prison sentence.

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