The Defense Group

THE DEFENSE GROUP

CENTRAL FLORIDA'S
CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEYS

FREE CRIMINAL DEFENSE CONSULTING

 

(407) 831-1956
(352) 742-9090


 THEFT CRIMES

Theft CrimesIf you have been arrested for any type of theft related charge, you should immediately contact an attorney at The Defense Group. With over 100 years of combined criminal justice, we can help!  Scheduled a free consultation by phone or in the office. Theft charges should always be fought aggressively. People look at a conviction not as a bad judgement that you exercised on occasion. It is viewed as a description of who you are. You are a thief. You have always been a dishonest thief. You will always be a dishonest thief. It is a stain that never washes off. It is not viewed as something you did. To many it is who you are. Don’t let a theft charge become your legacy. See the attorneys at The Defense Group right away. Call for your free consultation.

Often, individuals charged with theft are "first-time offenders," with no prior record. The attorneys at The Defense Group have represented hundreds of women and men on various theft charges. We guaranty our best efforts to minimize the consequences of your arrest. Call 407-831-1956  or  352-742-9090 to talk with an experienced criminal defense trial attorney today.

We represent clients throughout Central Florida, including Orange, Osceola, Seminole, Volusia, Lake, Sumter, Polk and Marion Counties.
Theft Offenses and "Crimes of Dishonesty" in Florida

At Common Law, the offense we call “theft” today was called “larceny.” It is not important to explain the difference, but the theft statute is now a “Legislative offense” in that the Florida Legislature has provided definitions of exactly what kind of conduct is required to bring this charge.  While it is far more complicated than a mere definition, here is the short version from the Legislature as to what constitutes a “heft.”
“(1) A person commits theft if he or she knowingly obtains or uses, or endeavors to obtain or to use, the property of another with intent to, either temporarily or permanently:
(a) Deprive the other person of a right to the property or a benefit from the property.
(b) Appropriate the property to his or her own use or to the use of any person not entitled  to the use of the property.”

I highlighted the words “or endeavors” because under the current theft statute there is no such thing as an attempt. Any endeavor or attempt constitutes the completed crime of theft.

The Florida legislature has passed several statutes that describe different crimes that fall within the category of theft offenses. The range from petit theft of under $300 which is a misdemeanor to racketeering charges that can be punished by up to 30 years in prison. charges with different maximum penalties. Embezzlement is a theft crime. Writing bad checks is a form of theft. Fraud is often part of  theft. Every theft charge is serious. It can become part of the definition of you and your reputation. It can cost you employment. It can cause lifetime of embarrassment. You will be fingerprinted and even required to provide a DNA sample for the national data bank. A conviction record is permanent. It does not expire or fall off your record.

Even if adjudication is withheld, and you are not convicted, your name can go into the FBI’s national database (NCIC) used by employers when they conduct background checks. Additionally, prior convictions for theft offenses can increase your sentence if you are caught re-offending.


Even a False Theft Accusation Must be Handled Quickly and Correctly
It is not unusual to be falsely accused of a theft related crime. There may be an issue of misidentification. Someone may be intentionally trying to hurt you. There can be a misunderstanding about a loan or a business arrangement. There could be a dispute over actual ownership. There have been instances where, a shoplifting charge resulted from an accidental taking when the person became distracted. Children have placed items into a shopping cart without their parents’ knowledge. Don’t try to just explain it all away. Have an experienced attorney present your side of the story to law enforcement, the alleged victim, and the state attorney's office, in an attempt to convince them not to go forward with a prosecution.

If you have been falsely accused of any theft offense, you should act quickly to have an attorney address the issue before a filing decision is made by the State Attorney's Office. Even if the accusation is not false, you need an attorney to protect your record and your reputation.
Some people are found to suffer from bipolar disorder or other mental health issues than may be used as part of your defense. The sooner you have counsel on your side to talk with the State, the better your chances are of avoiding a criminal record. Call the offices of The Defense Group to talk with an experienced theft attorney early in your case.

If you have been arrested for any offense involving theft, contact an experienced theft attorney in Tampa, FL, to discuss your case. We represent men and women in theft cases in Tampa or Plant City in Hillsborough County, Clearwater or St. Petersburg in Pinellas County, Bartow or Lakeland in Polk County, New Port Richey or Dade City in Pasco County, Brooksville in Hernando County, or Bradenton in Manatee County, Florida. Call us at 813-250-0500 today to discuss your case.


Common Examples of Theft Crimes in Florida
· Shoplifting
· Employee Theft / Embezzlement
· Penalties for Theft Offenses
· Resources
· Finding the Best Attorney for Your Theft Case


Shoplifting under Florida Law
Petit theft crimes for shoplifting are among the most commonly prosecuted crimes in the State of Florida. Most of these charges are misdemeanors for theft of merchandise worth under $300.
The criminal offense of shoplifting or retail theft can be charged as either a misdemeanor ("petit theft") or a felony ("grand theft"). The distinction is the value of the property that was taken. Any theft offense whether a misdemeanor or a felony is considered a "crime of dishonesty" or an impeachable offense. In many of these case, an innocent mistake can turn into a criminal accusation even for a person with no prior criminal record.

Many of our clients charged with petit theft are women who have never been arrested before. Whether distracted by their children while shopping, affected by the influence of bipolar disorder, or otherwise, our client is in unchartered waters. They have just undergone the humiliation of an arrest procedure. They are terrified about the impact the prosecution will have on their family or employment opportunities in the future. We are experienced in working with women to defend them against an accusation of shoplifting throughout Central Florida.
Men of course are also arrested for petit theft. Whether it is a shoplifting charge or a dispute with a neighbor over a borrowed tool, we represent men on these charges throughout Central Florida.

Most counties have diversion programs that may be available for "first offenders." For certain programs, you may be required to admit wrongdoing or give up your right to expunge your criminal record. The retail store may threaten to sue you for civil damages related to the accusation of theft. Having an experienced attorney to guide you through the process is important in any shoplifting or petit theft case in Florida.


Shoplifting or Retail Theft Penalties
The maximum penalty for a retail theft or shoplifting accusation depends on the value of the item taken.

  • If the value of the item taken was less than $100, then the offense will be charged as a petit theft as a misdemeanor in the second degree which is punishable by up to sixty (60) days in the county jail and a $500 fine plus court costs.
  • If the value of the item taken is more than $300, then the offense will be charged as a petit theft as a misdemeanor in the first degree which is punishable by up to 12 months (364 days) in the county jail and a $1,000.00 fine.
  • If the individual has ever been convicted of any two other theft offenses, then the person can be charged with Felony Petit Theft regardless of the value of the property, which is a third-degree felony punishable by five (5) years in Florida State Prison, and a five thousand ($5,000.00) fine plus court costs.
  • If the value of the item taken was more than $300, then the offense can be charged as Felony Retail Theft, which is also a third-degree felony.

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Employee Theft or Embezzlement in Florida
Click here for more information on employee theft or embezzlement charges.
The criminal offense of employee theft or embezzlement is treated harshly under Florida law. Like any theft offense, it is considered a crime of dishonesty. In many of these cases, the employee has worked for the company for years, has no criminal history, and has taken more than $100,000.00. Without the proper representation, prison sentences are common for these types of offenses even if the employee has no other criminal record. In a recent case, our client embezzled well over $100,000 from her employer and under the sentencing guidelines scored over 5 years in prison for a first offense. She could have been adjudicated for the felony and become a “convicted felon” for the rest of her life. We were able to negotiate a plea where she did not become a convicted felon and did not go to jail or prison.
If your employer suspects you of theft, talk with an experienced criminal defense attorney before making any statement to the employer or any law enforcement officer. 
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Penalties for Theft Offenses Depend on the Value of the Item Stolen
Florida law provides for different types of punishments depending on the value of the item taken. Click here to read more about grand theft charges.
Grand Theft in the First Degree:

  • If the value of the property stolen is $100,000 or more, then the offense will be classified as Grand Theft as a felony in the First Degree, punishable by a maximum sentence of 30 years in Florida State Prison, and a fine of up to $10,000.00.

Grand Theft in the Second Degree:

  • If the value of the property stolen is more than $20,000 but less than $100,000.00, then the offense will be classified as Grand Theft as a felony in the Second Degree, punishable by a maximum sentence of 15 years in Florida State Prison, and a fine of up to $10,000.00.

Grand Theft in the Third Degree:

  • If the value of the property stolen is more than $300 but less than $20,000.00, then the offense will be classified as Grand Theft as a felony in the Third Degree, punishable by a maximum sentence of 5 years in Florida State Prison and a $5,000.00 fine.
  • Even if the value of the property is less than $300, the offense may still be a third-degree felony if the stolen item is a gun, rifle, firearm, stop sign or other property listed below.

Petit Theft in the First Degree:

  • If the value of the property stolen is more than $100 but less than $300, then the offense will be classified as a Petit Theft in the First Degree punishable by 12 months in the county jail and a $1,000.00 fine.
  • Additionally, if the person charged has ever been previously convicted of any two-theft offense, then the person may be charged with a Third-Degree Felony.

Petit Theft in the Second Degree:

  • If the value of the property stolen is less $100.00, then the person may be charged with Petit Theft in the Second Degree, which is punishable by 60 days in the county jail and a $500.00 fine.

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Obtaining Property for a Worthless Check
The criminal offense of obtaining property by a worthless check is a common offense in Florida. Hiring a private attorney to handle the accusation can sometimes result in the charges being dropped early by the prosecutor. The prosecutor will not talk to you. They will only talk to your attorney. If you have been arrested for obtaining property by a worthless check, contact an attorney at The Defense Group to discuss your case today at 407-831-1956 or  352-742-9090.
Florida Statute Section 832.05 defines the Florida crime of Obtaining Property for a Worthless Check, Drafts and Debit Card orders, defined under Florida law to include a situation in which an individual writes a check to obtain some property or service from another individual when the person who wrote the check knows that there are insufficient funds to cover the check.
There are common defenses to the charge of obtaining property by a worthless check. They include the following:

  • You Did Not Know the Check Would Bounce - A common defense to the criminal charge of obtaining property with a worthless check involves the "knowingly" requirement. Many people find who are charged with this worthless check offense in Florida are not guilty because they were in a difficult financial situation and wrote the check thinking that there were sufficient funds in the account, but then later found out the check bounced because of account mismanagement or some other mistake that often occurs with someone under financial stress or does not properly balance their checkbook. If the account is a joint account, we may be able to show that the other person on the account drew the account without your knowledge.
  • The Person Accepted the Check Knew or Should Have Known the Check was Worthless - It is a defense to the charge if the person accepting the check is expressly notified before accepting the check or has reason to believe that there are insufficient funds in the bank to cover the check at the moment it is accepted. For instance, if you asked the person accepting the check to hold or delay depositing the check for even a brief period or was given any other reason to believe that the check would not be honored, then the person is not guilty of the criminal offense under Florida law.
  • Post- Dated Checks - It is a defense to the charge if the person accepting the check accepts a "postdated check," because the fact that the check is postdated indicates to the person accepting the check that there are insufficient funds in the account when the check is accepted. This essentially changes the check from a current item of exchange to a promissory note.
  • Stopping Payment with Intent to Defraud - If the person who issued the check subsequently "stopped payment" on the check, then the offense cannot be prosecuted under this section of Florida law, unless it can be shown that the stop payment was intended at the time of presentation and that the use of the check amounted to fraud.
  • Forged Check - Likewise, a forged check cannot be prosecuted under this section. Separate felony charges can be filed under Florida's forgery statute.

The statute also specifically provides that payment of the dishonored check, draft, bill of exchange or debit card order does not constitute a defense or ground for dismissal of the charges. In other words, you can’t “unsteal” something that has been stolen by returning it. Payment of the dishonored item may however be taken into consideration by the prosecution as to the sentence they seek. The offense of obtaining a worthless check is a first-degree misdemeanor in Florida when the check is for an amount less than $150.00, punishable by up to 12 months in the county jail. In the event the check is written for $150.00 or more, then the offense is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five (5) years in Florida State Prison.

Types of Theft Crimes in Florida
Under Florida law, many different types of theft charges can be brought by the prosecutor including:

  • Dealing in Stolen Property - Read more about dealing / trafficking in stolen property as defined by Florida Statutes Section 812.019. This second-degree felony alleges that a person traffics in property that he knows or should know was stolen.
  • False Information to Pawn Broker - Florida Statute § 539.001(8)(b)8 makes it a crime to provide false verification of ownership or false information of identification to a pawn broker.
  • Failure to Returned Leased Property - If you rent or lease property and then fail to return the property after a proper notice has been sent, then you can be prosecuted under Florida Statute Section 812.155 for hiring, leasing, or obtaining personal property or equipment with the intent to defraud or failing to return hired or leased personal property or equipment. Visit this section to find information from the State Attorney's Office for the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit in Tampa, FL, and from the Tampa Police Department and the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office on their requirements before a case will be investigated or prosecuted under this section.
  • Scheme to Defraud - If you enter a plea to this crime of dishonesty then you will not be eligible to seal the criminal record. Scheme to defraud is defined under Florida law as an ongoing and continuing series of acts intended to defraud someone by obtaining something of value through fraudulent or false promises, representations, or by intentionally misrepresenting some future act.
  • Robbery - Under Section 812.13, Florida Statute, the term "Robbery" is defined as the taking of property which may be the subject of larceny from a person or custody of another when in the course of the taking there is the use of putting in fear, assault, violence or force.
  • Burglary - Under Section 810.02, Florida Statute, the term "Burglary" is defined as "surreptitiously entering or remaining in a dwelling, structure or conveyance with the intention to commit an offense (other than trespass) inside of the dwelling, structure or conveyance at a time when the defendant is not licensed or invited to enter or remain, and the area is not open to the public."

Finding a Theft Attorney in Central, FL
If you have been arrested or accused of any theft charge, including shoplifting, scheme to defraud, fraud, theft, employee theft, or any similar offense, contact an experienced theft attorney at The Defense Group. With over 100 years of experience, we can help.

 


 
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