Florida Criminal Law: Theft Law Explained
If you have been accused of theft in Florida there are many things that you need to know and consider as you move forward. If you have already been arrested or charged, you should contact a skilled Clearwater criminal law attorney as soon as possible to ensure your rights are preserved throughout your case.
Florida’s criminal law code defines theft in section 812.014. The statute states:
“A person commits theft if he or she knowingly obtains or uses, or endeavors to obtain or to use, the property of another with intent to, either temporarily or permanently:
(a) Deprive the other person of a right to the property or a benefit from the property.
(b) Appropriate the property to his or her own use or to the use of any person not entitled to the use of the property.”
There are several elements that need to be met for someone to be convicted of theft. First, the person has to engage in “knowing” conduct, which means that theft is not something that can be done accidentally. Notice also that it can be theft whether a person actually obtains or uses, or merely tries to take or use someone else’s property. Further, to be convicted of theft you do not need to intend to permanently take something; indeed, even planning to use it temporarily can violate the statute.
Once a person has the property, they are guilty of theft if they keep the lawful owner from using or benefitting from the property or if they use the property or give it to someone else.
In other words, theft occurs when a person consciously takes, or tries to take, something from the owner and keep it either temporarily or permanently, which doesn’t allow the owner the benefit of the property.
Types of Theft
There are different classifications for the type of theft and amount. There are also other mitigating and aggravating factors, but for simplicity’s sake here is a short overview of the laws. These classifications will help to determine the possible punishment for being found guilty of theft.
- Petit Theft – Petit theft occurs when the amount of theft is valued below $300. This is a second-degree misdemeanor and is punishable by up to 60 days in jail and/or up to a $500 fine and can result in suspension of driver’s license. A second conviction for petit theft is a first degree misdemeanor and is punishable by up to 1 year in jail.
- Third Degree Grand Theft – Grand theft in the third degree occurs when the property is valued between $300 and $20,000. It is punishable with a fine of up to $5000 and/or up to five years in prison. This is a third degree felony.
- Second Degree Grand Theft – Grand theft in the second degree occurs when the property at issue is valued between $20,000 and $100,000. Grand theft in the second degree is punishable by up to 15 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000. This is a second-degree felony.
- First Degree Grand Theft – Grand theft in the first degree applies to property valued over $100,000 and is a first-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
Clearwater Criminal Law Attorneys
If you have been charged or accused of a crime, including theft, it is important to get legal assistance as soon as possible. Our experienced Clearwater criminal law attorneys at Roman & Roman, PA, can assist you with your criminal defense needs.