The act of theft can encompass many things, including theft by way of receiving stolen property, theft from a store, theft from a motor vehicle, theft by deception, or simply theft by taking something unlawfully which does not belong to you. Of course some instances of theft are only misdemeanors while others will bring felony charges. There are a variety of factors which determine whether a theft falls under the misdemeanor or felony category, primarily the amount of monetary value of the item stolen as well as the type of item stolen, and, in the case of a vehicle, the felony or misdemeanor designation can also depend on prior convictions. Despite what many think, theft charges are hardly a simple matter and, in some cases, can bring a sentence of serving time in the Florida state penitentiary. Theft is divided into petty theft and grand theft.
Petty Theft Definition
In general, petty theft—known as petit theft in Florida—results in a misdemeanor of the second degree if the property stolen is worth less than $100, and a misdemeanor of the first degree if the property stolen is worth more than $100, but less than $300. Petit theft of the second degree can result in not more than 60 days in the county jail, and a fine of no more than $500. A conviction of petit theft of the first degree can result in as much as a year in county jail and a fine of no more than $1,000. Petit theft is usually committed when a person shoplifts, and a first-time offender may be able to avoid jail time through a diversion program.
Grand Theft in the State of Florida
There are many different theft offenses which constitute grand theft. Grand theft of the third degree can include: any property valued between $300 and less than $5,000, property valued between $5,000 and less than $10,000, or property valued between $10,000 and less than $20,000, property taken from another person’s home with a value between $100 and $300, theft of property valued at less than $20,000, theft of a will, theft of a fire extinguisher, theft of a motor vehicle, theft of a firearm, theft of a commercially farmed animal, theft of more than 2,000 pieces of citrus fruit, theft of any property taken from a construction site, regardless of value, theft of a stop sign, theft of anhydrous ammonia, and theft of any controlled substance.
Grand theft of the second degree includes stealing property valued at between $20,000 and $100,000, stealing cargo entering interstate or intrastate commerce when the value is less than $50,000, stealing emergency medical equipment which has a value of $300 or more, or the theft of any law enforcement equipment which has a value of $300 or more.
The most serious type of grand theft in the state of Florida is grand theft of the first degree, which includes: the theft of any property which has a value of $100,000 or more, the theft of a law enforcement officer’s semi-trailer, the theft of any interstate or intrastate commerce which has a value of more than $50,000, and any theft in which a motor vehicle is used to complete the crime, and more than $1,000 worth of damage to real or personal property results from the theft.
Grand Theft Defined
Under Florida Statute 812.014, grand theft has occurred when a defendant knowingly and unlawfully obtained (or attempted to obtain) the property of another with the intent to temporarily or permanently deprive the victim of his or her right to the property, or to take the property of the victim to use as the defendant’s own, or to use for any other person who is not entitled to it. Grand theft is considered a specific intent crime, meaning not only that the defendant took property which belonged to another, but did so with the aim of depriving the owner of that property. In some cases, a person in the state of Florida who commits the crime of grand theft may also be held civilly liable, and may be required to pay the victim of the theft three times the amount of the merchandise stolen as well as to pay the victim’s attorney fees and court costs.
Points Which Determine Prison Time for Grand Theft in Florida
The Florida Department of Corrections released Florida sentencing guidelines in the form of a scoresheet preparation manual. When a person is arrested for a felony crime, that crime is assigned a certain level as a primary offense. The level is then assigned a specific number of points. Should the defendant score above 44 points, he or she will be sentenced to time in a Florida state prison for a certain number of months—unless the Judge makes the decision to adjust the number of months downward, based on mitigating circumstances.
Grand theft as a third-degree felony is a level 2 offense, and, under the scoresheet preparation manual’s sentencing guidelines is assigned 10 points under Florida statute 812.014(2)(c)1. (A level 10 offense is the most serious and brings the greatest number of points.) If the total sentence points are less than or equal to 44, the lowest permissible sentence is any non-state prison sanction. If the total sentence points are 22 or less, non-state prison sanctions will be applied under Statute 775.082(10). If the total points are greater than 44, the following equation is put into place: ____(number of points) – 28 x .75 = months of state prison sentence.
Although the points for grand theft between $300 and less than $5,000 are only ten, there are many different issues which can add additional points. A prior criminal record can add additional points to that total, and a legal status violation will add an additional four points (escape, fleeing, failure to appear, incarceration, pretrial intervention or diversion program, etc.).
Thirty points can be added to the total for a prior serious felony conviction. Enhancements can also add additional points. Therefore, as an example, a conviction for third degree grand theft, with a legal status violation and a probation violation, for theft of a motor vehicle, for a person with a prior serious felony adds up like this: 10 + 4 + 6 + 30 = 50 – 28 = 22 x 1.5 = 33 x .75 = 24.75 months, or two years and three-quarters of a month. The judge may also take other factors listed into consideration to adjust the total sentence downward when there is no mandatory minimum sentence attached.
Potential Defenses to Grand Theft
Of course every case is different, and your case is no exception. Your attorney will base your defense on the specific details and facts of your charges. That being said, there are certain defenses which are more commonly used against charges of grand theft such as:
- The property taken was taken lawfully—the defendant had a legal right to take the property, or believed he or she had a legal right to take the property;
- No intent. There must be intent to deprive another person of his or her property. If the defendant had good reason to believe he or she had a legal interest or joint ownership in the property, then there was no intent;
- The defendant believed he or she had consent from the owner to take the property in question, or
- The defendant believed the property taken belonged to him or her.
Consequences of a Theft Conviction
If a weapon was used in the commission of the theft crime, harsher penalties will result. Beyond the realm of jail time, fines and other penalties, a conviction for theft can have far-reaching consequences you may never have imagined. Your entire employment future could be impacted as it can be difficult to gain employment with either a misdemeanor or felony conviction on your records. You may be unable to seek a professional license of any kind, and if you are currently in a lucrative career, you may find yourself let go from that job particularly if you handle money, are the bookkeeper or you are involved in investments, stocks or bonds.
The Necessity of an Attorney
Your attorney can be the single greatest asset between a conviction and either a dismissal or a plea bargain for reduced charges. It’s important that you contact an attorney from The Law Place early on in the process in order to allow your attorney the necessary time to fully investigate all facts, interview the alleged victim, obtain statements and contact the prosecutor’s office. It may be possible for your attorney to negotiate a civil settlement as an alternative to criminal prosecution, therefore time is of the essence. Don’t wait—call an experienced criminal defense attorney from The Law Place today.
Florida Criminal Scoresheet
The Law Place has created an interactive criminal scoresheet. This program is user based and allows for instant feedback on your possible penalty in the event you are convicted of the charge. You can find the sentence calculator HERE.