Finding yourself or your loved one accused of theft is an unnerving situation. Other than being shunned, you are likely overwhelmed by the legal ramifications of the charges. What makes the situation even worse is the possibility of not understanding the rights and options available to you.
To be able to navigate the murky waters that are a theft charge and to aid you in finding the right legal representation for yourself, you first have to understand what is considered theft within Miami.
Legal Definition of Theft
The legal definition of theft is the act of taking another person’s property with the intention to either temporarily or permanently deprive said individual to the property or its benefits or to appropriate the property for own use or for another who does not have entitlement over the property.
In Miami, the state divides the crime of Theft into two categories and further separates this into various degrees.
Under Florida Statute 812.014 (2) e, a crime of Petit Theft includes the unlawful taking of property valued at less than $750. Under this category, there is the charge of First Degree Petit Theft which you probably will attract if you have a prior theft conviction. The Second Degree is considerably a lesser charge as the value of the property stolen will likely be less than $100.
Statute of Limitation for Petit Theft
Based on Florida Statute 812.035 (10), the statute of limitation applied on crimes of Petit Theft is a maximum of five years. This means that a case can still be brought up five years after you are accused of having committed the crime or even longer in some cases.
Under Florida Statute 812.014(2) c, Grand Theft is an act of unlawfully taking another person’s property that is valued at $750 or higher. This value will be proven when the plaintiff presents evidence of the purchase price as well as the depreciation percentages on said property.
You are charged with Grand Theft of the First Degree when the prosecution proves that you unlawfully took possession of goods worth more than $100,000 or shipped cargo worth more than $50,000.
For the Second Degree charge, the prosecution has to prove that you took property worth less than $100,000 but more than $20,000. If you are found to have stolen emergency medical equipment worth more than $300 or shipped cargo whose value was less than $50,000, then you will be charged with the Second Degree.
Suppose the prosecution proves that you unlawfully took property that was less than $20,000 but higher than $750 in value, a controlled substance, firearm, motor vehicle or anything of value from a hotel or restaurant where you are an employee. In that case, you will be charged with the lesser Grand Theft of the Third Degree, which is a Third Degree Felony.
Statute of Limitation for Grand Theft
Pursuant to Florida Statute 812.035 (10), you can be charged with the crime of Grand Theft within a period of five years from the time the crime was committed.
Penalties for Theft under Florida’s Criminal Punishment Code
The penalties for theft that you face are dependent on, among other things, the value of the property taken and the type of property.
Now, suppose that you face a charge of Grand Theft. For the Third Degree, you face a possible maximum of five years in prison or probation for the same period or a fine of up to $5,000. For the Second Degree, you might end up serving a maximum of fifteen years in prison, or a similar amount of probation time or a fine of up to $10,000. On the more serious First Degree Felony, you will have to go to jail for not less than twenty-one months but not more than thirty years. You might also end up having to deal with the reality of thirty years of probation, or the judge might impose a $10,000 fine.
On the other hand, for a Petit Theft of the Second Degree charge, you are likely going to face the possibility of six months in jail or probation for the same time or a fine of up to $500. For the First Degree, you are likely to face one year in prison, a year of probation, and a fine of up to $1,000.
Defenses to Theft Crime Charges
Soon as you are made aware of the theft crime charges you are facing, it would be prudent to seek a theft crime attorney.
An experienced attorney should be able to undertake both the pretrial and trial defenses. Some of the most common defense strategies that will be employed during these times include:
Equal Ownership Defense
Your theft case lawyer will use this defense if they can prove that you are a co-owner of said property. However, this defense does not apply when the co-owner, who might be the complainant in the case, has superior legal rights to the property.
Good Faith Possession Defense
According to Florida law, theft involves unlawfully taking possession with the aim of stealing. If there is well-founded good faith as to why you took possession of the item, your attorney will use this defense strategy.
Valueless Property Defense
Your lawyer will be arguing that it is impossible to steal trash. As such, part of the defense will be proving that the property has no reasonable market value.
Voluntary Abandonment Defense
If you entirely and voluntarily renounced taking the item for criminal purposes, your lawyer will take on the voluntary abandonment defense. The alternative would be the closely related involuntary abandonment in which your defense team presents a compelling argument over the reason for abandonment.
Hire a Theft Attorney from Meltzer & Bell
At Meltzer & Bell, we understand that when you are facing theft charges, it might feel like your back is against the wall. Our theft attorneys step in at this critical moment and help you through exhausting all legal avenues to see that you get a fair trial.
We have successfully represented clients charged with various theft offenses, including retail and car theft, forgery and insurance fraud, identity and insurance theft, receiving stolen property, and theft by deception.
We are committed to answering any questions that you might have as well as giving legal advice. We invite you to contact us for a free consultation where our attorneys will access your particular case and provide you with high-quality legal advice.