Central Florida is recognized by many as the cornerstone shopping and attraction destination, providing an unparalleled vacation experience to locals and out-of-state visitors. With an array of stores, eateries, boutiques, and other service providers, Orlando attracts millions of visitors to its city each year. With that level of voluminous visitation, along with the thousands of locals that live in the region, it’s not uncommon for stores to be afflicted by high theft occurrences. Our ironclad law firm is humbled to have successfully helped many Orlando residents and out-of-state visitors, who have unfortunately found themselves facing legal trouble, particularly with theft.
I. Petit Theft
Although petit theft is viewed by many to be a less serious charge compared to other crimes—Grand Theft—it shouldn’t be taken lightly. All levels of theft can have a significant influence on your future, and is particularly serious because it is considered a crime of moral turpitude or a crime of dishonesty. A theft conviction will create a permanent criminal record. Preserving your reputation in society is critical, as it can have negative implications to your future aspirations and overall way of life.
Aside from the impact a petit theft conviction can have on your reputation, it also carries severe penalties. If the value of the property taken was less than $100, it’s considered a second degree misdemeanor, carrying penalties of up to 60-days imprisonment, six months of probation, up to a $500 fine, among other penalties. Petit theft can be upgraded to a first degree misdemeanor if you have a prior theft conviction or if the value of the property taken was $100 or more but less than $300. This carries penalties of up to one year in jail, one-year probation, and up to a $1,000 fine. You may even be ordered to pay restitution, complete community service hours, or enroll and complete an Impulse Control Theft Class. It’s noteworthy to highlight that a second theft conviction will result in your driving privileges being suspended for a period of one year.
Under Florida Statute 812.014, to prove the crime of Petit Theft, the prosecution must prove two (2) elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
(1) Defendant knowingly and unlawfully [obtained or used] [endeavored to obtain or to use] the property of the victim; and (2) he or she did so with the intent to either temporarily or permanently deprive the victim of his or her right to the property or any benefit from it; or appropriate the property of the victim to to his or her own use or to the use of any person not entitled to it.
What this essentially means is that the person took another’s valuables without their permission, consent, or without paying for them, and the taking was done with a culpable mind—the specific intent—to take those valuables either permanently or temporarily. Although a momentarily taking—for mere seconds—doesn’t satisfy the specific intent necessary for this crime, taking possession of valuables for longer than mere seconds will likely be sufficient facts for a jury to consider. Because Florida’s theft statute requires specific intent, the prosecution is required to prove not only that the taking was intentional, but additionally, that the defendant specifically intended to steal.
The value of the property stolen can determine the level of severity of the theft crime. Value is defined as the market value of the property at the time and place of the offense, or if that value cannot be satisfactorily determined, the cost of replacement of the valuables within a reasonable time subsequent to the offense. If the exact value cannot be ascertained, the minimum value should be determined. If minimum value cannot be determined, the value must be found to be less than $100, making the theft crime a second degree misdemeanor. It’s important to point out that the value amount of the stolen property is determined before taxes. This can ultimately make the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor theft offense.
A commonly asked question regarding theft cases is what the State will likely be able to use if the case is ultimately taken to trial. The prosecution may use video surveillance, receipts, photographs of the stolen property, incriminating statements made by the suspect, testimony of the loss prevention officer, testimony of co-defendants and customers, among other forms of evidence.
Although you may feel hopeless learning that the State has a mountain of evidence that they may be able to use against you; our skillful and aggressive defense team at Schisani Law is still able to attain unbelievable results. We have gotten numerous theft cases dropped by employing tried and proven strategies. Although we can never guarantee a result, our firm is confident that—based on our former cases—we can put you in the best position to achieve a favorable outcome.
Below are some common defenses to a petit theft charge:
- The defendant had an honest, good faith belief that he or she had the right to possess the victim’s property.
- Poor quality surveillance footage creating doubt as to the identity of the suspect;
- The accused mistakenly left the establishment with the unpaid items;
- The accused left the store with items unknowingly under their shopping cart;
- Mistaken accusations;
- The suspect was set up by a co-defendant;
- The accused momentarily deprived the owner of the property;
- The accused left the store with the unpaid items—not with the intent to steal—but with the intent to retrieve a wallet or money.
- The property didn’t have value;
- Voluntary abandonment;
- Both the suspect and the victim had equal ownership to the property.
II. Grand Theft
Under Florida Statute 812.014, Grand Theft is the unlawful taking or using of property, that has a value of $300 or more, with the intent to deprive the owner of his or her rights to the property or benefit of the property. In Florida, Grand Theft is considered a felony that can range from a third degree felony up to a first degree felony. The classification of the felony predominately depends on the value of the property stolen. As you probably already intuitively determined, the level of felony and the corresponding penalties ultimately increase based on how valuable the property is.
Grand Theft—Third Degree Felony
Grand Theft is a third degree felony if the value of the property taken was $300 or more, but less than $20,000. Additionally, it’s considered a third degree felony if the property taken is a motor vehicle, fire extinguisher, firearm, commercially farmed animal, or stop sign, among others. The penalties associated with Third Degree Grand Theft are severe, and include up to five (5) years in prison, five (5) years of supervised probation, and a $5,000 fine. This doesn’t include restitution, classes ordered, and a permanent criminal record.
Grand Theft—Second Degree Felony
Grand Theft is considered a second degree felony if the value of the property taken was $20,000 or more, but less than $100,000. Moreover, it’s Second Degree Grand Theft if the property stolen is shipping cargo valued at less than $50,000; emergency medical equipment valued at $300 or more; or law enforcement equipment valued at $300 or more. The penalties associated with this level of Grand Theft can include, but are not limited to, up to 15 years in prison, up 15 years of probation, and a $10,000 fine.
Grand Theft—First Degree Felony
Grand Theft becomes a first degree felony if the value of the property taken was $100,000 or more; if the property taken was a semitrailer that was deployed by law enforcement; if the property stolen was shipping cargo valued at $50,000 or more. The penalties related to First Degree Grand Theft are severe, and may include up to 30 years in prison, up to 30 years of probation, up to a $10,000 fine, among other penalties.
Grand Theft is a highly defendable offense if you have the right defense team by your side. Below are some defenses to a Grand Theft charge:
- The accused had consent from the owner to take the property;
- The suspect lacked the requisite intent;
- The suspect had a good faith belief that they had an ownership or possessory interest in the property;
- The accused used the property for a lawful purpose;
- The property taken had no value;
- The suspect was merely at the scene of the crime;
- Voluntary abandonment.
If you have any further questions or want to set up a free consultation, please e-mail the Schisani Law Firm, P.A. at [email protected] or contact our office at (407) 853-2606.