At The Edelstein Firm, we understand the serious consequences that can result from a theft arrest or conviction. A theft-related conviction can negatively impact every aspect of your life, from your reputation and career to your family life and personal relationships. That is why it is so important that you choose a theft crimes attorney in Miami, Florida with the necessary skill and experience to help you avoid these potential life-long negative consequences.
The vast majority of theft crimes are prosecuted in state court, although there are also federal crimes that target theft. Theft offenses cover a broad range of criminalized conduct that shares a common element: the temporary or permanent taking of another’s property without consent. Unlike most fraud crimes, there is no requirement that the defendant use any false statements, misrepresentations, or trickery to obtain the property. The most common theft offenses are shoplifting (also referred to as “retail theft), petit theft and grand theft. Technically speaking, there is no crime called “shoplifting” under Florida law. A shoplifting offense can be charged as a “retail theft” under Florida Statute 812.015 but is most often charged as either petit theft or grand theft.
Types of Theft Cases
Petit Theft or Grand Theft?
A theft is categorized by the value of the property that was allegedly stolen. As the value of the property increases so does the degree of the charged crime. Generally speaking, theft of property with a value of less than $750 is petit theft, a misdemeanor. Petit theft can either be in the first or second degree depending on the value of the property. If the property’s value is between $100 or more but less than $750, it would be a misdemeanor of the first degree (assuming the defendant is not alleged to have entered a home or dwelling to steal the property). Theft of property with a value of less than $100 would be a second-degree misdemeanor.
Theft becomes a felony when the value is $750 or more. This arbitrary line between a first-degree misdemeanor and a third-degree felony is significant due to the fact that a third-degree felony is punishable by a maximum of five years in prison compared to the maximum one-year sentence for a first-degree misdemeanor. This element of value, therefore, can take on great importance in some cases as it can radically affect the possible punishment a defendant faces in a theft case.
Degrees of Theft
Although value is the most common element affecting the degree of theft, there are other facts that can affect the degree of the crime charged. The nature of the property alone—regardless of value—can determine the degree of theft. For example, in cases where firearms or motor vehicles are allegedly stolen, the crime is classified as a third-degree felony. Also, sometimes the type of property at issue combined with its value is determinative. As stated above, however, most of the time the value alone determines the degree of theft:
- Grand Theft in the First Degree – The property value is $100,000 or more
- Grand Theft in the Second Degree – The property value $20,000 or more but less than $100,000
- Grand Theft in the Third Degree – The property value is $750 or more but less than $20,000,
The penalty for theft is based on the degree of theft charged. The least serious theft charge—petit theft (when the value is less than $100)—is a second-degree misdemeanor which is punishable by up to 60 days in the county jail and a fine of up to $500. If the current petit theft charge is a subsequent offense, and the defendant has a prior petit theft conviction, the State Attorney’s Office can charge the new theft as a first-degree misdemeanor increasing the maximum jail sentence to 364 days in the county jail, and the fine to a maximum of $1,000. Additionally, a prosecutor may file a petit theft as a felony if the defendant has two or more previous convictions, increasing the maximum prison sentence faced to five years and the potential fine to a maximum of $5,000.
The degrees of grand theft directly correlates to the felony degree of the crime. For example, grand theft in the first degree is classified as a first-degree felony. A first-degree felony is punishable by a maximum of 30 years in state prison.
|Degree of Theft||Felony Degree||Maximum|
|First||First||30 years in prison|
|Second||Second||15 years in prison|
|Third||Third||5 years in prison|
Civil Penalties for Theft Crimes
In addition to being prosecuted for a theft crime, people who have been accused of theft oftentimes face possible civil penalties under Florida Statute § 772.11. Specifically, the statute says that a person can prove by clear and convincing evidence that he or she has been injured in any way by a theft crime can sue the alleged offender for three times the amount of the actual damages sustained. It also states that the victim is entitled to minimum damages in the amount of $200, reasonable attorney’s fees, and court costs.
Under the law, the alleged victim must send a written demand to the alleged offender for damages. If the alleged offender doesn’t pay the amount demanded within 30 days, the alleged victim can file a lawsuit. This civil theft law is completely separate from any criminal theft prosecutions. Someone being prosecuted for criminal theft charges may not receive a civil demand from a person or company. The opposite is true as well. Someone who receives a civil theft demand may not necessarily face criminal theft charges.
Most people accused of retail theft also receive a civil theft demand from a law firm representing the store demanding that they pay $200 or risk being sued and held responsible for three times the actual amount of the property alleged to have been stolen. It doesn’t even matter if the store recovered the property. Under the law, if the store sues you, and can prove that you committed the evidence by clear and convincing evidence, you may be ordered to pay three times the amount you were alleged to have stolen, plus attorney’s fees.
- Good faith belief of ownership or right to possess the property
- Consent was given by the property owner
- Equal Ownership
- Involuntary intoxication
- Voluntary Abandonment
- Valueless Property
More Theft Resources
18 U.S. Code CHAPTER 31—EMBEZZLEMENT AND THEFT – Federal theft crime laws.
Florida Statute 812.014 (Theft) – Florida theft crime law.
Contact an Experienced Theft Crimes Attorney in Miami
Whether you or a loved one has been arrested for a theft crime, or are under investigation, it is critical to consult with an experienced theft crimes attorney in Miami as soon as possible to ensure that your rights are protected. You need the counsel of an experienced criminal defense attorney to guide you through the process and maximize your chances of resolving your case with a favorable outcome.
Over the years, our defense lawyers have represented hundreds of clients in a wide range of theft cases. There is a good chance that we have dealt with your type of case and have represented clients who shared some of the same needs and concerns that you have. Feel free to browse through the results section of our site for a representative sample of some of our past cases, and the results we have achieved for our clients.
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