Understanding Theft Charges in Florida
Feb. 17, 2023
Penalties and Fines
The penalties for theft convictions in Florida range from stiff fines and time behind bars to a felony that remains on your record and follows you as you apply for jobs or housing. Making one bad decision can negatively impact the rest of your life as you try to put your past behind you. Not knowing all of your rights and trying to fight the case alone is another mistake you don’t want to make. Having a criminal defense attorney with extensive knowledge of Florida’s theft and burglary laws in your corner will increase your chances of receiving the best possible outcome. If you’re in Ocala, Florida, or the neighboring areas of Marion County, Belleview, Dunnellon, and Silver Springs, we’re ready to help you.
Theft vs. Larceny
Theft and larceny are terms used interchangeably. Larceny is a type of theft that covers taking someone’s personal property, like stealing a cell phone off of a counter. Theft is a broader term used to describe taking another’s property by deception, embezzlement, or some other illegal means. In Florida, theft is to knowingly obtain, use, or attempt to use someone else’s property with intentions to permanently or temporarily deprive the person of their property or convert the property for unauthorized use.
Theft is also the act of exercising control over another’s property, and the property includes personal items, property rights and benefits, or public and private services. For instance, a child who takes control of an elderly parent’s banking and misuses the funds, or a neighbor who runs an extension cord from your outdoor outlet to power their home, can be charged with theft.
Types of Theft
The difference between a misdemeanor and felony charge depends on the value of the theft, what was stolen, and the circumstances surrounding the incident. Petit theft of the second degree is the charge for property valued at less than $100, and the penalty is up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. Petit theft of the first degree is for property valued between $100-$750 and comes with one year in prison and a fine of $1,000.
Grand theft offenses are considered felonies and typically include the theft of property totaling more than $750. There are three levels of grand theft charges, and harsher penalties are reserved for habitual felony offenders, repeat petit thefts, and thefts involving victims 65 and older.
Depending on the value of the item allegedly stolen, a shoplifter can be charged with either petit or grand theft. Shoplifting or retail theft is defined as taking property, money, negotiable documents, or altering product code or the price tag. Actions that attempt to take control of the merchant’s possessions or deprive them of the full retail value are considered theft.
A shoplifter can also face civil penalties on top of the criminal consequences. Store owners have the right to file a lawsuit to recoup their loss. That’s why you need an attorney who knows the law inside and out to represent you in a trial or at a negotiation session.
Possible Theft Defenses
Our attorneys will sit and strategize which of the theft defenses is ideal for your situation. Lack of intent can be used if you believed in good faith that you were not stealing or didn’t realize the property was in your possession. A lawful purpose defense is plausible if you have a legal right to the property. It’s most often used in cases involving landlords who need to dispose of a former tenant’s property.
Proving duress and necessity is another defense that can be used under Florida law. Taking a neighbor’s bike to escape a domestic violence situation involving a deadly weapon is a viable defense against a theft charge. Being given permission to use a specific item allows you to use the consent defense as a strategy.
Theft & Burglary Attorneys in Ocala, Florida
If you find yourself being charged with theft or burglary and you live in Ocala, Florida, or one of the surrounding areas of Marion County, Belleview, Dunnellon, or Silver Springs, don’t wait any longer to reach out to us for representation.