Have Never Been Arrested Before But Last Weekend I Was Arrested for Dealing in Stolen Property—I Am So Scared
Dealing in stolen property in Florida is a serious crime, however in some instances a person who had no idea they were dealing in stolen property—and who has never been in trouble with the law before—can find themselves in legal hot water. Under Florida law, it is a criminal offense for any person to deal in property he or she knows—or reasonably should know—is stolen. The crime is a second-degree felony under Florida statute 812.019(1), with severe penalties up to 15 years in prison. When a person is accused of distributing, transferring, selling or otherwise disposing of stolen property, the Florida prosecutor must establish the following two elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The accused attempted to traffic in or endeavored to traffic in the alleged stolen property and
- The accused knew, or should have known, the property was stolen.
Defining Property, Trafficking and the Usual Cause of Dealing in Stolen Property Charges
Anything of value, including real property is encompassed by the term “property.” This can include anything which grows on, is affixed to, or is found on land, as well as tangible or intangible personal property. Included with tangible or intangible personal property are the claims, services, interests, rights or privileges associated with that property.
“Trafficking” means you sold or otherwise disposed of the property, or that you bought, sold, received, possessed, obtained control of, or used the property in question with a clear intention of selling, transferring, distributing, dispensing or otherwise disposing of the property. By and large, dealing in stolen property charges are usually leveled at those who pawn items for cash. Since wealthy people go to the bank if they need money, such charges are disproportionately leveled at the poor.
Strangely, as a crime which is a second degree felony and can result in up to 15 years in prison, and a fine as large as $10,000, the value of the property is not part of the equation—pawning a stolen $15 ring is the same crime as pawning a stolen $40,000 ring. One of the key factors involved in the Florida crime of dealing in stolen property hinges on the defendant’s explanation of how he or she came to possess the stolen items.
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Isn’t Proof of Knowledge the Items Were Stolen Required?
In fact, a required element in the prosecution of the crime Dealing in Stolen Property, is proof of knowledge the items were stolen, however that “proof” can be inferred.
- Unless there is a satisfactory explanation to indicate otherwise, possession of recently stolen property infers the defendant knew or should have known the property was stolen.
- Unless there is a satisfactory explanation to indicate otherwise, the purchase or sale of the stolen property at a price which is significantly below fair market value will infer the defendant knew or should have known the property was stolen.
- In the context of a stolen motor vehicle, if the ignition mechanism has been bypassed, then it can be inferred—absent a satisfactory explanation by the defendant—that the defendant knew or should have known the vehicle was stolen.
Penalties Associated with Dealing in Stolen Property
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.
Dealing in stolen property is a level 5 offense, and a second-degree felony (with a level 10 offense being the most serious). A level 5 offense, under the scoresheet preparation manual’s sentencing guidelines, is assigned 28 points. Each additional offense charged at the same time will add 5.6 points per offense for the level five offense. 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. The basic formula is total points minus 28 x .75 = total number of months in prison. Therefore, as an example, a conviction for dealing in stolen property, which had three additional offenses, a prior criminal record on the part of the defendant and a prior serious felony conviction could look something like this: 28 + 5.6 + 5.6 + 5.6 + 3.6 + 30 = 78.4 – 28 = 50.4 x .75 = 37.8 months in state prison.
Potential Defenses to the Crime of Dealing in Stolen Property
Of course the defense used to combat your charges of dealing in stolen property will depend on the circumstances and facts surrounding your case. There are, however a number of potential defenses your attorney may implement in your defense, such as:
- You truly lacked the knowledge that the item in question had been stolen;
- You were pawning items for another person, and were not aware the items had been stolen;
- The property in question was not “trafficked,” under the meaning of the Florida statute;
- You believed you had the right to sell or dispose of the property;
- The property in question was not stolen;
- You had a credible belief the property in question was given to you or was abandoned;
- There is a mistaken identity issue as relates to the property in question;
- The alleged victim in the case made false claims regarding his or her ownership of the property in question;
- There is insufficient evidence to support the claim the property was stolen, and
- You have a satisfactory explanation which rebuts the inference of “knowledge” of the stolen property.
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Why You Should Never Attempt to Explain Your Way Out of Stolen Property Charges
The number one thing you should remember if you are arrested for dealing in stolen property is to take your right to remain silent very seriously. Beyond politely giving your name and address to the police officers, you are not required to say another word other than “I want an attorney.” The police officer is almost certainly hoping you will waive your right to remain silent and attempt to “explain” why you were not dealing in stolen property.
When this explanation is given without your attorney present, anything you say is likely to be taken out of context and will almost certainly used against you. The good news is that dealing in stolen property charges are very defendable by an experienced attorney. If you can offer an explanation as to why you were in possession of stolen goods, and that explanation is reasonable, your attorney may be able to have the charges dismissed entirely.
Obtaining Experienced Legal Assistance for Your Charges
It is understandable that you are scared and worried about your future after being arrested for dealing in stolen property. Having a highly experienced attorney from The Law Place by your side from start to finish gives you a much better chance of a positive outcome. Through early intervention on your behalf, your attorney may be able to convince the prosecutor to amend the charge of dealing in stolen property to a lesser offense, or to drop the charges entirely. Our firm will provide you with an aggressive criminal defense; we are committed to depending every client vigorously, while keeping you informed every step of the way. Contact The Law Place today for the zealous defense you deserve.
Florida Criminal Scoresheet Calculator
The Law Place has created a sample scoresheet which allows an individual to determine their sentence points. This calculator will help someone determine if they “score” Florida State Prison. The calculator can be found HERE