Theft is a serious crime, but what are the consequences and how is it prosecuted? Read our blog to find out.
What Is Theft?
Theft can be a crime in and of itself, but it is also a classification of crimes. Larceny, shoplifting and robbery all fall under the theft umbrella. These crimes occur when someone takes another person’s property with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of it.
Most theft crimes are divided into two main groups: petty and grand theft. Based on its grouping; a crime may be prosecuted more severely than another.
Petty theft is a lesser degree offense and involves the theft less than $500 and does not involve extortion, violence, or coercion in any way. Grand theft on the other hand could be applied to stolen property valued at or above $500 and could potentially involve force or fear as a tool to gain access to the property. In some cases, grand theft is applied to types of property regardless of their actual market value. For example, cars and animals fall under grand theft regardless of their condition or value.
There are intermediate offenses like second degree theft, but most theft crimes are classified under either petty or grand theft.
Lost vs. Stolen Property
In many cases, the value of an item is the defining factor in whether the crime is petty or grand theft. However, the way an offender acquires property may also impact how the crime is charged and punished.
Keeping lost property may qualify as theft if the finder could have returned the property to its rightful owner but chose not to. Also called constructive taking, this crime is based more on intent instead of motive. For example, stealing a car to get away from police is dependent on your motive but picking up a $100 bill off the grocery store floor and keeping it is about your intentions to give back the money (or not).
Theft of stolen property is a more complex issue altogether. Not only are the person accused guilty of theft, but there is a supply chain involving one or more parties who supplied the stolen goods. The court cannot pursue a case unless there is evidence proving that the accused accepted or bought stolen property knowingly.
In many cases, the court must rely on circumstantial evidence to prove that the defendant had the necessary state of mind to take the stolen goods for themselves. The evidence must also show that any reasonable person would be aware that the items were stolen.
For example, a stolen gun with the serial number filed off would raise questions to any ethical weapons dealer but if a dealer meets the weapon and sells it anyway, they could be charged with theft of stolen property.
Consequences for Theft
The penalty for theft crimes depends on the value of the stolen property, it is origin (whether it was stolen or lost), and any additional aggravating factors. In general, Florida punishes petit larceny (petty theft) as a second-degree misdemeanor with a sentence of jail time, probation, restitution, and community service. Grand theft is a felony punishable by up to 25 years in state prison and fines ranging from $5,000-$10,000.
Aggravating factors can increase the penalties. For example, armed robbery, theft via extortion or embezzlement, and coercion by threat of violence could increase the sentence. Additionally, if anyone is harmed or killed in the process of committing theft, the court may choose to pursue murder charges.
Have You Been Accused of Theft in Florida?
If you have been accused of theft in Florida, contact The Law Office of David A. Webster, P.A. Our experienced team of legal professionals can fight for you and help you protect your freedom. We have helped countless clients with their cases, and we have a successful track record.
Contact The Law Office of David A. Webster, P.A. for more information.