According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, there were 185,646 arrests for theft in the state of Florida in 2018, and while this figure does represent a 6.4% decline in theft arrests in the sunshine state, theft-related crimes are still a serious problem in Florida, which is ultimately why the Florida legislature has enacted very stringent theft laws that impose harsh sentences on anyone convicted of theft in our state.
However, not every person charged with theft is guilty, and coming in contact with police officers that jump to conclusions, arbitrarily make arrests, and try to charge offenders with the harshest crime possible is not an uncommon occurrence in Florida. Consequently, if you or a family member has been charged with theft in Florida, there are few aspects of Florida’s theft laws that you should be aware of.
Theft Laws in Florida
The theft laws in Florida are, like many states, are structured based on the value of the item(s) stolen. Ultimately, the value of the property stolen is a major factor that determines the type of crime you are charged with and the potential sentence you could be facing if you are found guilty. Generally, there are two broad categories of theft crimes in Florida law:
- Grand theft
- Petit theft
The severity of the sentence you could be facing for a grand theft or petit theft charge also depends on what degree the theft charge falls under, first, second, or third. The degree as well as the type of theft charge dictates the length of the prison or jail sentence that could be imposed on you by a judge. Pursuant to F.S.§812.014, the type of theft crime you could be charged with based on the value of the item(s) stollen is as follows:
- Item(s) stolen are valued at $100,000 or more: First degree grand theft, first degree felony.
- Item(s) stolen are valued at $20,000-$99,999: Second degree grand theft, second degree felony.
- Item(s) stolen are valued at $300-$19,999: Third degree grand theft, third degree felony.
- Item(s) stolen are valued at $100-$300: First degree petit theft, first degree misdemeanor.
- Item(s) stolen are valued at less than $100: Second degree petit theft, second degree misdemeanor.
Exceptions to Florida’s Theft Laws
F.S§812.014 contains several exceptions to the rules referenced above that are mainly centered around the type of property stolen or where the property was stolen from. For example, stealing a firearm, regardless of its value, is considered third degree grand theft. Moreover, if the items stolen are valued between $100 to $300 but were taken from a person’s home, you could be charged with third degree grand theft due to the enhancement provisions of F.S§812.014(2)(d). Consequently, you should review Florida’s theft statute, carefully, to determine exactly which type of theft you could be charged with given the circumstances surrounding your case.
Potential Sentences for Theft in Florida
It’s important to understand that the underlying purpose of the sentences imposed on criminal offenders in Florida is to punish them. How do we know this? The Florida legislature plainly stated this fact in Florida’s sentencing statute, F.S.§921.002. However, one of the underlying goals of the criminal justice system is to rehabilitate, so there are often routes first or second-time offenders can use to keep a theft charge off of their criminal record or simply avoid a jail or prison sentence. Generally, the maximum punishment that could be imposed on you, pursuant F.S.§775.082 & F.S.§775.083, as a result of being convicted of theft in Florida is as follows:
- First Degree Grand Theft: Up to 30 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
- Second Degree Grand Theft: Up to 15 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
- Third Degree Grand Theft: Up to 5 years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines.
- First Degree Petit Theft: Up to 1 year in prison and up to $1,000 in fines.
- Second Degree Petit Theft: Up to 60 days in jail and up to $500 in fines.
The punishments above are the maximum sentences that could be imposed on you for theft in Florida, but programs such as probation and pretrial intervention are commonly used by criminal courts in an effort to both punish and rehabilitate certain criminal offenders. Due to this, hiring a criminal attorney to represent you can be a worthwhile investment in the long-run, because the lawyer can often build a legal defense that makes offering you probation or pretrial intervention appealing from the state’s attorney’s perspective.
This information is written by a non-lawyer and should not be perceived as legal advice.