Property Theft Crimes
Property Theft Crime Lawyers and Attorneys in Fort Myers, FL
The theft crime lawyers at Robert Foley Law Firm in Fort Myers, Florida work with individuals who have been charged with, or who are being investigated for property theft. Property crimes typically include unlawfully causing damage to another person’s property or taking possession of property with the intent to permanently deprive the rightful owner of possession. Many property crimes result in probation, community service, or fines. However, some misdemeanors can result in jail time, and certain felonies can carry serious prison sentences. Even long into the future, property crimes can continue to appear on your criminal record, and they may impact your future employment and licensing decisions. If you are being accused of theft, it is important to take the charges seriously. Charges are not the same as a criminal conviction and a criminal conviction can have an immense impact on your life, not only in terms of legal consequences, but also in terms of collateral consequences. Individuals found guilty of theft might face challenges in getting hired or accessing certain government programs even after they have served their time in jail. If you are facing theft crime charges, reach out to the Robert Foley Law Firm in Fort Myers, Florida today. Our theft lawyers are here to help.
What are Common Property Crimes?
The consequences of theft conviction in Florida will depend upon the severity of your crime and the type of crime you committed. There are different kinds of theft charges and theft crimes. They involve the deprivation or damage of another person or company’s property.
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 $200.00 or less, the offense is considered a second-degree misdemeanor. If the property damage is greater than $200.00 but less than $1,000.00, the offense is a first-degree misdemeanor. If the property damage exceeds $1,000.00, 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. Under Florida Statutes Section 812.015(1)(d), retail theft includes taking possession of or carrying away merchandise, money, negotiable documents, or other property; altering or removing a label, universal product code, or price tag; and transferring merchandise from one container to another. According to Florida Statutes Section 812.014, retail theft can be considered either petit theft or grand theft depending on the value of the stolen merchandise. If the stolen property is valued at less than $100, the offense is considered to be petit theft, and it is a second-degree misdemeanor. If the stolen property is valued at more than $100 but less than $750, the offense is still petit theft, but it is now punishable as a first-degree misdemeanor. If the property is valued at $750 or more, the offense becomes grand theft, and it is a third-degree felony.
- Dealing in stolen property. Under Florida Statutes Section 812.019, a person is guilty of dealing in stolen property if he or she traffics or endeavors to traffic in property that he or she knows or should know was stolen. This offense is a second-degree felony, and it is punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Any person who initiates, organizes, plans, finances, directs, manages, or supervises property theft and subsequently traffics in stolen property is further guilty of a first-degree felony. This offense is punishable by up to 30 years.
- Grand theft. Under Florida Statutes Section 812.014, grand theft occurs when a person knowingly and unlawfully obtains someone else’s property with the intent to temporarily or permanently deprive the victim of the property, take the property to use as his or her own, or take the property for the use of anyone else who is not entitled to it. Grand theft is considered a specific intent crime. This means that for a person to be found guilty of grand theft, it is not enough for him to have taken another person’s property. It must also be shown that the person did so with the aim of depriving the owner of the property, or of taking the property for his own or someone else’s use. If the value of the stolen property is $100,000 or more, the offense is classified as a first-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years and $10,000. If the value of the stolen property is more than $20,000 but less than $100,000, the offense is classified as a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years and $10,000. If the value of the stolen property is more than $750 but less than $20,000, the offense is classified as a third-degree felony punishable by up to 5 years and $5,000.
- Burglary. A person commits burglary by entering another person’s property without authorization and with the intent to commit a crime—commonly theft—inside the property. In the state of Florida, burglary is charged as a felony, and it can carry severe penalties including prison, probation, and large fines. Punishment varies, however, depending on the type of burglary committed. For example, burglary of an empty structure or conveyance is classified as a third-degree felony. Burglary of a structure or conveyance with another person inside and burglary of a dwelling, whether empty or not, are second-degree felonies, and they can be punished by up to 15 years in prison. If the offender commits an assault or battery or becomes armed inside the property, the burglary becomes punishable by life in prison.
Even if you are charged with a minor property crime, it is important to contact an experienced defense attorney immediately. The state of Florida takes property crimes seriously. A prosecutor is assigned at the outset of your case, and the role of that prosecutor is not to help you or resolve the situation amicably. The reality is that the prosecutor wants to obtain a negotiated guilty plea or a guilty verdict, then move on to the next matter. Contact the theft lawyers in Fort Myers, Florida at the Robert Foley Law Firm to give yourself the best chance in defending against a property crime charge. Attorney Robert Foley will always provide you with an initial consultation free of charge.
A theft lawyer in Fort Myers, Florida at Robert Foley Law Firm can review your 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. For example, 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 in Fort Myers, Florida if you need to build a strong defense for your theft charges.
There are other theft defenses available as well. For example, if you were at a store and legitimately mistook a purse on a shelf for your own purse, or if you mistakenly believed the property was yours, 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. The theft lawyer in Fort Myers, Florida at the Foley Law Firm work with individuals facing theft charges. We are here to help. Contact us today.