Tampa Theft Lawyer
For 2019, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement reported 5,626 arrests for theft offenses, including larceny, burglary, motor vehicle theft, and receiving or dealing in stolen property. As a property or financial crime, conviction of a theft offense can keep you from getting or keeping a wide range of jobs, from working in a bank to running a cash register in a supermarket or retail store. You could even be disabled from testifying in a civil case based on this criminal record of “dishonesty.” You could also be forced to make restitution and return or repay any property found to be illegally obtained. These burdens are on top of any fines assessed or jail sentence imposed as punishment for a crime.
With so much at stake, it is vital to obtain strong, smart and aggressive representation whenever you are arrested and charged with theft in the state of Florida. A skilled and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney can work to suppress evidence illegally obtained, raise all applicable defenses, negotiate a favorable outcome with prosecutors, or defend you in court if your case goes to trial. Tampa theft lawyer Bryant Scriven is a former misdemeanor and felony prosecutor who has served as lead trial counsel in over 2,000 criminal cases and tried more than 100 cases to verdict. He has an in-depth knowledge of Florida theft crimes and legal procedures and is ready to develop a strategic and effective approach to your defense. Call Scriven Law, P.A., if you’ve been arrested for a theft crime in Tampa, and schedule a free consultation with attorney Bryant Scriven.
Is Theft a Misdemeanor or a Felony?
A long list of offenses falls under the umbrella term of “theft.” Some crimes are misdemeanors while others are felonies, usually depending on the type of property involved or its value. Theft is defined in Florida Statutes 812.014 to include the following elements:
- Knowingly obtaining or using (or attempting to obtain or use)
- the property of another
- with the intent to deprive the other person of their right to the property or benefit from the property, either temporarily or permanently; or
- with the intent to appropriate the property to his or her own use or the use of any person not entitled to use the property, either temporarily or permanently.
To convict someone of a theft offense in Florida, the state must prove every element described above beyond a reasonable doubt to a unanimous jury, or to the judge if the defendant waives the right to a jury trial.
Common theft offenses in Florida include:
- Petty Theft
- Grand Theft
- Retail Theft (Shoplifting)
- Grand Theft Auto
- Check Forgery
- Stolen Property
Petty theft is a misdemeanor and involves property valued under $300. Grand theft is a felony and involves property valued over $300, or certain types of property regardless of their value, such as drugs or firearms.
As the value of the property involved goes up, the serious nature of the offense increases. The theft of highly-valued property and certain property regardless of value can be charged as a second-degree or even a first-degree felony. A first-degree felony is punishable by up to 30 years in prison and as much as $10,000 in fines, along with being forced to make restitution if ordered by the court.
How Can You Defend Against Theft Charges?
As mentioned above, the burden is on the prosecution to prove every element of the offense charged. Your attorney can defend you by challenging the state’s evidence and demonstrating that the state has not met its burden of proving its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Beyond the objective facts of whether the subject property was taken or not, the definition of theft in Florida law contains elements that go to the defendant’s subjective intent. For instance, the property must be taken “knowingly” and with the “intent to deprive.” A skilled criminal defense attorney can raise a reasonable doubt whether the requisite intent was present. For instance:
- You could take property by mistake, thinking it was your property
- You could take property fully intending to pay for it, but accidentally leave the store before paying or otherwise be detained before you had the opportunity to pay
Other defenses might include being misidentified by witnesses as the person who stole or being coerced into making a false confession by store security or law enforcement in violation of your rights.
Get Help With Theft Crime Defense in Tampa
If you have been charged with a theft crime in Florida, remember that you have rights as a person accused of a crime, including the right to present all available defenses. A skilled Tampa theft defense lawyer can present those defenses on your behalf and work to get charges dropped or the case dismissed, negotiate a favorable plea bargain that avoids jail time, or secure a not guilty verdict at trial. In Tampa, call Scriven Law, P.A., to discuss your options with an experienced and successful Tampa criminal defense lawyer.