Seek Experienced Legal Help When Charged With Theft And Property Crimes
At Foley & Wilson Law Firm, our skilled attorneys work with individuals who have been charged with or are being investigated for property theft, unlawful damage to another’s property and similar offenses. Depending on the value of the property and the other details of the case, a conviction can result in penalties ranging from probation and community service to steep fines and lengthy prison sentences. Just having a conviction on your record can impact you for a lifetime, making it harder to pass a background check.
If you are being accused of theft, it is important to take the charges seriously and seek the help of an experienced lawyer. Serving clients in Lee and Collier counties from our offices in Fort Myers and Naples, our attorneys have the experience, knowledge and skill needed to help you mitigate the consequences and find a favorable resolution to your charges.
What Are Common Property Crimes?
Under Florida law, the most common property crimes are:
Criminal mischief: The Florida criminal mischief statute addresses what can be summed up as vandalism. Florida Statutes Section 806.13 tells us that someone commits the offense of criminal mischief if he or she willfully and maliciously damages any real or personal property belonging to another person. “Real property” includes homes, buildings, and similar structures, while “personal property” refers to things such as cars and boats. Damage to property under this section can include graffiti. If the property damage amounts to $200 or less, the offense is considered a second-degree misdemeanor. If the property damage is greater than $200 but less than $1,000, the offense is a first-degree misdemeanor. If the property damage exceeds $1,000, the offense is a third-degree felony.
Trespassing: A person is guilty of trespassing if he or she willfully and without permission enters property lawfully possessed by someone else. In Florida, a person can trespass on a structure, conveyance, or any other type of property. A “structure” means some type of building, temporary or permanent, that has a roof and is enclosed. A “conveyance” can be a car, boat, plane, or rail car. Trespassing includes situations where a person originally had permission to be somewhere, but the permission was later revoked, and the person refused to leave. Trespassing is classified as a misdemeanor in Florida.
Shoplifting: Also known as retail theft, this offense is defined under Florida Statutes Section 812.015(1)(d). It encompasses more than just leaving a business with unpaid merchandise, money or other property. You may also be guilty of retail theft if you remove or alter labels or price tags, or if you move merchandise into a different container. The charges and related penalties will depend on the value of the stolen property.
Dealing in stolen property: If you sell/traffic or attempt to sell/traffic goods that you know (or should know) are stolen, you can be charged with dealing in stolen property under Florida Statutes Section 812.019. It is considered a second-degree felony and a conviction can result in up to 15 years in prison. You can face first-degree felony charges (and a potential sentence of up to 30 years) if you also played a role – direct or indirect – in the theft of the property that you later trafficked.
Grand theft: You commit grand theft if take another person’s property unlawfully and knowingly and do so with the intent to deprive them of it, to keep/use it for yourself or to give it to someone else for their possession or use (defined in Florida Statutes Section 812.014). Proving intent is necessary for securing a conviction. Grand theft is a felony broken into three classes, or degrees, based on the value of the property taken. Sentences can range from up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine to up to 30 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Burglary: Quite simply, burglary involves illegally entering another person’s property without permission and intending to commit a crime. Usually, the intended crime is theft, but not always. Although charged as a felony, the specific degree and the related consequences depend on the type of property entered and the type of crime committed or intended.
Speak To Us About Your Defense Options
Each of these crimes has a viable defense. We can review your theft charges, look at the evidence the state has against you, and help you understand what potential defenses may be available.
With grand theft for example, if you had a lack of intent to deprive the other party of their property, you may be able to get the charges reduced or dropped. If you had permission to use property, the permission was revoked, but this information wasn’t conveyed to you, you may be able to show that you had no intent to permanently deprive a person of their property.
Another situation might be where something was loaned to you or given to you as a gift, and then the owner or giver asked for the gift in return. These situations can sometimes get complicated, and it can be helpful to have a theft lawyer on your side if you need to build a strong defense for your theft charges.
If you were at a store and legitimately mistook a purse on a shelf for your own purse, but didn’t have the intent to steal, you may be able to mount a legitimate defense. Imagine a situation where a person fills her grocery cart with goods, puts an expensive item in the rack under the cart, and then forgets the item was there at checkout. This error could result in the person being accused of theft, though she didn’t intend to steal anything. Other factors could impact the case. For example, did she offer to pay when the mistake was discovered? Did she try to return the item? Sometimes misunderstandings can escalate, and when racial bias or other types of bias are involved, individuals can often struggle to rectify a situation.
If you are being charged with theft, it is important to remember that you are innocent until proven guilty.
Seek Legal Help Immediately – You Can’t Afford To Wait
At Foley & Wilson Law Firm, our goal is to help you fight the charges or otherwise seek a favorable resolution. We have your best interests at heart, and we will work tirelessly to protect your rights and freedom. To schedule a free initial consultation about your case, call us at 239-984-9115 or reach out online.