Grand Theft in Florida
Larceny offenses in Florida comprise petit theft, robbery, grand theft, and burglary. The type and value of the stolen property will determine the type of theft offenses. For example, if the property stolen was from an authorized emergency vehicle, it could be considered a grand theft offense. If you get accused of grand theft in Florida, you can contact an experienced criminal defense attorney from Parikh Law to build a solid defense. To learn more about grand theft in Florida, continue reading.
What is Considered Grand Theft in Florida?
Stealing or taking a motor vehicle, emergency medical equipment, commercially farmed animal, or controlled substance with a value over $750 constitutes grand theft. Grand theft in Florida refers to an individual unlawfully taking someone else’s personal property for their use and depriving that person of the benefit or the rights to the property.
The property that is stolen should have a specific monetary value for it to be considered grand theft. In addition, the manner in which the property had been stolen and the type of property can impact the subsequent penalties and charges. For instance, if law enforcement equipment was stolen, then that equipment value should be above $300 for it to be considered a grand theft offense.
Unlike petit theft, which can be considered a misdemeanor, a person committing grand theft in Florida can be charged with a first-degree felony to a third-degree felony.
The Statute of Limitations for Grand Theft
Florida’s general statute of limitations for criminal cases is two years; however, this does not apply to grand theft crimes. If grand theft is committed, the person whose personal property was stolen has five years to file a lawsuit from the time when the property was stolen.
Proving the Value of the Stolen Property
The case prosecutor should be able to prove in court that the value of the stolen property was above $300 with sufficient evidence; otherwise, the conviction would not exceed that of a petit theft case.
The following evidence can be submitted to prove the property’s value and sustain a conviction for grand theft:
- Market Value: The state must ascertain the market value of the property at the time of the offense. If the value of the property at the place and time of the felony offense cannot be ascertained, then the cost of replacement of the property can be considered.
- Original Purchase Price: Although the original price of the property cannot be sufficient in a grand theft case to determine the property’s value, it can be used to determine the property’s worth from the time it was stolen.
- Replacement Costs: If the market value of the stolen item from the theft cannot be determined, then the evidence of the cost of replacement can be submitted in court. However, the evidence should show that the replacement cost was similar to the price of the stolen property from the time it was taken.
How to Prove Grand Theft at Trial?
To prove grand theft in Florida, the prosecutor of the case should be able to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, the following elements:
- The defendant had the intent of obtaining or stealing the other person’s property, meaning they illegally acquired and used the property of another.
- The defendant intended to use the property for themselves or another person not entitled to it.
- The defendant temporarily or permanently deprives the other person of their right and the benefits of the property with the intent to do so.
- The value of the property was more than $750.
Grand Theft Penalties
Grand theft in Florida can be considered a felony offense, and the penalties imposed on convicted defendants can vary depending on the circumstances of their case. The following are the degrees of grand theft in Florida:
First-Degree Grand Theft
For the grand theft crime to be considered a first-degree felony in Florida courts, any of the following criteria would be enough:
- The value of the property stolen is above $100,000
- It was a semi-trailer deployed by a law enforcement officer
- It was cargo valued at more than $50,000 that was using interstate or intrastate roadways.
- It was stolen property was used to damage real property
- During the course of committing the crime, if the defendant had used a motor vehicle for assistance and damaged more than $1,000 worth of real or personal property of another person, it would be considered a first-degree grand theft.
If the defendant is convicted, they can serve a minimum of 21 months or a maximum of 30 years of incarceration. They can also face 30 years of probation or a fine of up to $10,000.
Second-Degree Grand Theft
In second-degree grand theft, the property must be less than $100,000 in value but more than $20,000. Cargo stolen entering the interstate should be valued at less than $50,000 for the grand theft to be considered a second-degree felony.
Emergency medical equipment worth more than $300 stolen from an aircraft, vehicle, or facility, and law enforcement equipment stolen from an authorized emergency vehicle can all be considered a second-degree felony. The penalty for a second-degree felony for grand theft can be 15 years of probation or 15 years of incarceration and a fine of up to $10,000.
Third-Degree Grand Theft
Third-degree grand theft may be committed if the property stolen was valued at less than $20,000 but more than $750. The property stolen can be a fire extinguisher, a will, a motor vehicle, or anything taken from a designated construction site identified by a sign. The person who commits a third-degree felony can face a maximum of five years in prison or five years of probation and a fine of up to $5,000.
Grand Theft Defenses in Florida
If the co-owner of a property takes the property, they cannot be convicted of grand theft in Florida. However, if one co-owner holds a higher share in the property, the other co-owner could face legal consequences for taking the property.
Good Faith Belief
Good faith belief refers to a lack of intent. For instance, if the defendant had a good faith belief that they owned the property and did not intend on stealing the property or depriving the owner of their rights to the property, it can be used as a potential defense in a grand theft case.
Under Florida law, if the defendant lacks the intent to commit theft, they cannot be convicted for it. This defense is commonly used in cases where the defendant is a co-owner of the said property or has a possessory interest in the property.
A display of questionable behavior at the scene of the grand theft, mere knowledge of the offense being committed, or just being present at the scene of the crime is insufficient to convict the defendant of grand theft. For example, if a person accompanies their friend to a store and the friend commits theft, the person accompanying them cannot be convicted or considered an accomplice in theft. However, if the person accompanying the offender commits an act that assists the offender in committing theft, they can be held accountable in court.
Acting Out of Necessity
If the defendant committed grand theft to support duress, it could be used as a defense in court to avoid conviction. The defendant would need to prove they did not have any other reasonable means to avoid the compulsion or danger other than committing the crime. The duress they had sought to avoid could outweigh the harm of committing the theft.
If the defendant, in full consciousness and unprompted by any circumstances, decides to withdraw from attempting the grand theft, it can be used as a defense in court to avoid or reduce penalties. On the other hand, if they abandon the grand theft due to unanticipated circumstances (involuntary abandonment), it cannot be used as a defense in court.
Mistake of Fact
Under Florida law, if the defendant commits grand theft under the mistaken belief that the property they are taking belongs to them, it can be used as a defense to contest the charge.
The Property Has No Value
Grand theft is only committed when someone’s property worth more than $750 is unlawfully taken or used by another person. But if an item can be argued to have no value, the defendant may not be convicted of committing grand theft.
If a defendant believes that the property owner had consented to them using their property, then it can be used as a defense to avoid charges.
Why Do You Need to Hire a Grand Theft Lawyer?
Grand theft penalties may include restitution and community service if the defendant is convicted. There are even distinct penalties under Florida law for defendants over 65. Being convicted of grand theft in Florida can result in severe consequences, such as a permanent criminal record and imprisonment. If you have been charged with grand theft, you should schedule a consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
A criminal defense lawyer would thoroughly know all policies and laws for grand theft cases. They can use their experience, resources, and skills to help you avoid conviction. For instance, your lawyer can negotiate a plea deal with the prosecutor to limit the risk of a serious conviction. You are welcome to contact us at Parikh Law to schedule a consultation. ^