When someone's property is missing, and the evidence points to you, it is understandable that you would feel anxious and concerned about your future. Theft and other property crimes carry stiff penalties for convictions, and you may wonder about your options.
Fortunately, you have rights, and the court considers you innocent until evidence proves you otherwise. Starting your defense as soon as possible after your arrest is a wise step. You may find it helpful to understand the laws concerning property crimes and the kind of evidence the prosecution will need to prove its case.
What is theft?
When the Florida courts refer to theft, they may mean any number of offenses, each with its own definition and penalties. However, the general meaning of theft is taking something that does not belong to you without permission from the owner. The prosecution must prove that you purposely took the item and that you had no intention of returning it to the owner. The value of the item involved determines whether you will face charges of grand theft or petit theft.
Grand theft includes any property valued between $300 and $10,000. Because that is a wide range of money, the law divides it into first-, second- and third-degree grand theft. Petit theft, on the other hand, is the stealing of objects worth up to $299. Petit theft can be first or second degree, depending on the value of the object or objects.
If someone accuses you of stealing something that is less than $300, you are still at risk of harsh sentences. The penalties for a conviction for petit theft can reach up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. Multiple offenses can translate to a felony charge. Grand theft penalties include the following:
- Third degree: property valued between $300 and $19,999; up to 5 years in prison and $5,000 in fines
- Second degree: property valued between $20,000 and $99,999; up to 15 years in prison and $10,000 in fines
- First degree: property valued at $100,000 or more; up to 30 years in prison and $10,000 in fines
If the theft resulted in significant property damage or if police accuse you of using a vehicle in some manner other than for your escape, you may face penalty enhancements, which may add time to your sentence or increase the amount of your fine.
Seeking legal counsel as early as possible is a wise move. Your attorney will examine the evidence against you and advise you on the best way to proceed to minimize the negative consequences you are facing.