Just as nearly every other jurisdiction on Earth, Florida has laws that penalize theft. Although the subject may seem somewhat straightforward, there are certain nuances to Florida’s laws against theft. Here’s what you need to know if you are ever charged with theft in Florida.
The word “theft” is a broad term that encompasses several property crimes, including
receiving stolen property, and
to name just a few. For most theft crimes in Florida, a prosecutor must establish several elements to achieve a conviction. In general, theft consists of a defendant
taking of another person’s property or services
without that person’s permission or consent
with the intent to deprive the rightful owner of it.
Typically the mens rea required for a theft conviction is that of dishonesty. Also, in many jurisdictions the defendant must intend to permanently deprive the rightful owner of use of the property in question, not just temporarily.
In Florida, theft is defined as
obtaining or using the property
with the intent to either temporarily or permanently deprive the person of a right to the property or a benefit from the property, or
appropriating the property for his own use or the use of any other person without a right to use that property.
Florida divides theft offenses into two broad categories: petty theft and grand theft. If the property involved in the theft has a value of up to $100, a conviction is a second degree petty theft, and may result in a jail sentence of up to 60 days and a fine of up to $500. Should the property stolen be valued at between $100 and $299, a conviction is a first degree petty theft, with a jail sentence of up to one year and a fine of up to $1,000.
If the value of the goods or services stolen is above $300 in Florida, the crime of grand theft is often the charge, which makes a conviction a felony.
Should the property be valued at between $300 and $19,999, a conviction is a third degree felony, bringing with it a sentence of up to 5 years behind bars and a fine of up to $5,000. Also a third degree grand theft is the theft of a firearm, stop signs, construction signs, or a fire extinguisher, among a few other specific items.
Meanwhile, theft of property valued at between $20,000 and $99,999 is a second degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Theft of property valued at $100,000 or more is a first degree felony, punishable by a prison sentence of up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
In certain cases, a grand theft will be automatically prosecuted at a certain degree because of other reasons. If the defendant used a motor vehicle in the crime for a reason other than as a getaway car, or if the defendant causes over $1,000 to the property or the premises where it is, a conviction is automatically a first degree felony.