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Grand Theft

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Under Florida law, all thefts are illegal.  Some thefts are just more illegal than others.  “Grand theft” is a term with many definitions in Florida, but it is best understood as a collection of felony theft crimes.  This means that grand theft charges are prosecuted in circuit court and carry potential sentences that include state prison time.  Most grand theft charges are defined by the value of the items alleged to have been stolen.  Other charges depend upon the type of property taken or the circumstances surrounding the theft or attempt.  No matter the specifics of the allegation, there is nothing “grand” about being charged with grand theft.

Tampa Bay Grand Theft Lawyer

If you have found yourself charged with grand theft in Hillsborough County or the Tampa Bay area, the Tampa criminal defense team at Elsea Law Firm, P.A. will fight for your rights and help you defend the charges. Our team will do everything in our power to give you the best advice for your case and, if possible, get the charges reduced or dismissed. Call (813) 451-8583 today for your free consultation.

Defining Grand Theft in Florida

Florida Statutes Section 812.014 defines theft as the knowing use or obtainment, or attempted obtainment of another person’s property, resulting in the temporary or permanent deprivation of the victim’s right or benefit in order for the offender, or someone else not entitled to the property, to use or have the property.  Because the definition of theft in Florida includes an attempt to steal, there is no such crime as “attempted theft.”  Those caught in the act of, but before completion of, a theft will face the same charges in court.  On October 1, 2019, the threshold amount for a grand theft charge based on value changed from $300 to $750.  This means that if the value of the allegedly stolen property is $749.99 or less, a misdemeanor crime of petit theft will be charged (unless the property is otherwise statutorily protected- see below).

Grand theft charges are classified into third-, second-, or first-degree felony charges. A Third-Degree Grand Theft charge is the least severe but is still a felony. The following is a list of items that can subject someone to a third-degree grand theft felony charge if they have been stolen or attempted to be stolen:

  • Any property valued at $750 or more
  • A firearm
  • A motor vehicle (GTMV or Grand Theft Auto)
  • A commercial farm animal such as a cow, horse, or pig
  • A fire extinguisher
  • A stop sign
  • 2,000 or more pieces of fruit
  • A sign from a construction site
  • Anhydrous ammonia (used in fertilizer)
  • Any amount of a controlled substance

Grand Theft in the Second-Degree is the second type of felony you can receive a charge for. This charge applies if the following allegations include:

  • Any property valued at $20,000 or more
  • The alleged property stolen includes law enforcement or medical equipment valued more than $750, if certain factors were present.

Grand Theft in the First-Degree is considered the most severe theft charge you can receive in Florida. First-degree theft charges apply when the allegations include:

  • Any property valued at $100,000 or more.
  • The alleged stolen property was cargo valued at $50,000 or more.
  • There was alleged stolen property valued at $750 or more and:
    • Property damage occurred with more than $1,000 of damages
    • A motor vehicle was used in the damaging of property

Penalties for Grand Theft in Florida

The degree of the grand theft charge determines the maximum penalties that you could receive. Grand theft is a serious crime with harsh consequences across the board. All three types of grand theft charges are considered felonies in the state of Florida. A first-, second-, and third-degree grand theft charge all have the potential of prison time if convicted. On top of that, there are substantial fines that can go along with it.

Third-Degree Grand Theft felony:

If you are convicted of a third-degree grand theft felony charge, you can face a fine of $5,000 and up to 5 years in prison.

Second-Degree Grand Theft felony:

If you are convicted of a second-degree grand theft felony charge, you can face a fine of $10,000 and up to 15 years in prison.

First-Degree Grand Theft felony:

 If you are convicted of a first-degree grand theft felony charge, you can face a fine of $10,000 and up to 30 years in prison.

If you are convicted and adjudicated guilty of a grand theft charge, you will become a convicted felon.  Your fingerprints will be taken so that the record of your conviction can be used against you in future criminal cases.  However, a theft conviction has consequences beyond those that might affect you as a criminal defendant.  Any theft conviction is considered a crime of dishonesty, and you will have to acknowledge your conviction if asked about it while giving testimony as a witness in any matter in court or in a deposition.  Additionally, schools, landlords, or prospective employers will cast a critical eye on grand theft charges, especially when they might be more forgiving of a low-level drug or traffic crime.. The only thing “grand” about a grand theft charge are the far-reaching consequences.

Defenses to Grand Theft

If you have been accused of grand theft, you may think all the odds are against you. Especially if you are required to go to court to face a judge and jury. However, the law provides many defenses to grand theft charges.  To learn how best to defend your case, contact an experienced attorney. Whether it is an outright exoneration or a strategy to mitigate a potentially life-changing sentence, your goal should be the result of the application of the law to the specifics of your case.  Here are some of the defenses commonly applicable to grand theft charges.

Lack of Intent

The State must prove that a taking was an intentional act- not a mistake or a misunderstanding.  A missed deadline to return a rented or borrowed item; An expensive item placed in a cart by a child that slipped passed the self-checkout station; An item that looked abandoned but actually belonged to someone- each of these scenarios casts doubt upon the existence of intent in the mind of the accused.

Insufficient Proof of Value

New retail goods that are the subject of a theft charge have a clear path to having their value established in court.  A price tag on a commonly sold item will usually suffice, but novel, unique, or used items present a challenge to law enforcement and prosecutors.  Establishing replacement value of such items can be difficult and may require testimony of an expert witness.  The State may not wish to go to such lengths to prove a property crime, leaving the door open to reduced charges.

Diversion

While not a defense, per se, the State may offer a deferred prosecution or diversion program for those charged with grand theft.  If completed, these programs often offer a path to dismissal of charges.  Restitution, if appropriate, is often included along with terms like community service hours as a pathway out of the defense chair.  An experienced attorney can advise you of your eligibility for any diversion program and can negotiate with the state for your entry into such a program.

It is important to remember that for a grand theft charge, like any crime, the State has the burden to prove each element of the charge beyond and to the exclusion of every reasonable doubt.

Finding a Grand Theft Attorney in Hillsborough County or the Tampa Bay Area

If you or a loved one have been charged with a grand theft crime in the state of Florida, your number one priority is seeking out a qualified defense attorney. Grand theft charges can result in a felony conviction which will bring harsh penalties that can affect the rest of your life. With high fines, social stigma, and even prison time, you do not want to be convicted of a Grand Theft crime. Finding the right criminal defense attorney may make all the difference in your case. At Elsea Law Firm, P.A., Joel Elsea and his team have the experience and skill necessary to defend your case. You need an attorney who is ready to stand in your corner and fight for your freedom, and Joel Elsea is prepared to do so.  Call (813) 451-8583 today for your free consultation regarding your specific case.

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