Working with a Theft Defense lawyer in Pinellas County is extremely important if you want to avoid jail time, probation and costly fines. These cases often include big misunderstandings and even false accusations. Don’t leave things to chance or delay. Get the upper hand now by acting fast.
What to if You’ve Been Arrested for Theft in Pinellas County, Florida
Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney
If you’ve been arrested for any type of theft crime in Pinellas County, you should contact our experienced Pinellas County Theft defense attorneys as soon as possible. We welcome you to a free consultation today.
Acting fast can make a big difference in getting crucial evidence to support your case, or acting to win some leniency with the judges so your penalties are less severe.
Types of Theft Crimes in Florida
Florida Statute Chapter 812 outlines the law for various theft crimes, including:
- Dealing in stolen property § 812.019
- Embezzlement §812.081
- Fuel Theft §812.0151
- Identify theft § 817.568
- Petit theft § 812.14
- Robbery § 812.13
- Scheme to defraud § 817.034
- Shoplifting (retail theft) § 812.15
Read Related: I Was Arrested in Pinellas County, What Do I Do?
Possible Defenses for Theft Crimes in Pinellas County
Claim of Ownership
One of the most common defenses for theft crimes in Pinellas County is claiming that you were the rightful owner of the alleged stolen property. If there is evidence of this, then you have a strong chance of getting your charges dropped. Receipts, CCTV footage and photos are your best friend in these scenarios.
Another defense for theft crimes in Florida is the court determining that the defendant acted in ‘Good Faith’ and made an honest mistake in the belief they had a right to take the property or item. In this case, strong evidence will be required to prove the mistake.
You may be able to prove there was no intent to deprive the owner of an item permanently, as intoxication can negate the intent required to prove larceny.
For example, if you were at a bar and accidentally took someone else’s bag after having a few drinks then intoxication could be used as a defense – as you didn’t mean to steal someone’s bag, but mistook it for your own.
Returning or replacing property is not going to get your charges dismissed. But, it could win you some leniency and the potential of a possible plea deal as it will show you are sympathetic to the victim.
Entrapment is when someone was manipulated, forced or induced to commit a crime. For example, if an undercover police officer lured you into committing a theft then you could claim entrapment.
If you’ve believed you have been arrested under the assumption you were someone else, then contact a criminal defense attorney immediately. This can happen when the law enforcement officer is going off of a description only.
Stealing Under Duress
Stealing under duress occurs when someone is in danger or under severe pressure to steal an item. For example, if you had no money on you but were on the verge of collapsing due to dehydration so you stole some drinks. Or if you were pressured into a crime by a threatening person.
These defenses are unlikely to get the charges dropped but may reduce the penalties.
How Are Theft Crimes Proven in Pinellas County, Florida?
Florida Statute §812.014 describes that the prosecutor must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The accused knowingly and unlawfully obtained, used or tried to obtain or use another person’s property;
- They did so with the intent to deprive the victim of their property (either temporarily or permanently);
- The defendant acted with the internet to appropriate the property to his or her use, or to someone else who was not the owner of it.
It’s important to note that the value of the stolen property will determine if you face a misdemeanor charge or a felony.
Penalties for Theft in Florida
Misdemeanor thefts are known as ‘Petit Theft’. These are often crimes like stealing some items from a store or taking someone’s jacket.
A first-degree misdemeanor is the most severe and occurs when:
- Stolen property was valued at more than $100, but less than $750, or;
- The defendant has been convicted of another theft crime before.
The penalties include:
- Up to 1 year in jail, or;
- 12 months of probation
- $1,000 fine.
Second-Degree Petit Theft
- The property was valued at less than $100
- Up to 60 days in jail, or;
- 6 months probation
- A $500 fine.
Grand theft is a felony and is charged as a third-degree, second-degree or first-degree felony. The most serious would be a first degree.
The penalty for a first-degree felony is:
- Up to 30 years in prison (or probation).
- Up to $20,000 in fines.
First Degree Felony:
- Property valued at $100,000 or more
- Law enforcement semi-trailer
- Cargo valued at $50,000 or more that entered the stream of commerce
- A crime where the offender commits grand theft while also:
- Using a motor vehicle to assist in the crime and damages someone’s property, or;
- Causes more than $1,000 in damage to another person’s property
Theft of a Firearm
The theft of a firearm is charged as a third-degree grand theft. It is a third-degree felony, punishable by:
- Up to 5 years in Florida State Prison (regardless of firearm value).
The Consequences of a Theft Conviction
Aside from the penalties listed above, there are long-lasting consequences for a theft conviction.
Even the most minor of shoplifting offenses are highly looked down upon by employers, educators and the military. You may also gain a reputation in your community that is damaging to your life. We urge you to contact our Pinellas County Theft attorneys today for a free consultation.
Read Related: When Do I Get a Court Date After an Arrest in Florida?
Examples of Successful Theft Defenses
Accusations of Retail Theft Dropped
A client of ours was accused and arrested of ‘Retail Theft’ after scanning and paying for their items in the normal manner at a Lowe’s store in Pinellas County. Immediately after exiting the store, the Lowe’s loss prevention officer accused our client of stealing and called law enforcement.
The client called us immediately and we began an investigation. Our finding revealed that the Lowe’s checkout employee failed to scan the items in question. So we called the State Attorney’s office and we encouraged them to watch the surveillance footage of the incident before filing the charges. The prosecutor took a closer look and dropped the charges. Our client was able to relax knowing they still had a clean criminal record.
Grand Theft Charges Dropped
Another client of ours was recently accused of stealing from the register and giving unapproved free merchandise and discounts while working as a cashier at a local gas station.
They were arrested for a felony grand theft, resulting in a huge amount of stress as he’s a green card holder from India.
Our client immediately called us for a free consultation. We went over his case and the circumstances, realizing that he had not been paid for the last two weeks of work at the business. We spoke to the prosecutor, who was asking that our client repay the $1,000 he had allegedly stolen. But upon learning of the lack of pay (which exceeded the alleged stolen value), the prosecution dropped the charges immediately.
Our client was very relieved as a conviction would have severely impacted their immigration application process.
Resources for Theft Charges in Florida
- Theft Crimes in Pinellas County: This site can provide information on consumer protection, theft crimes and identity theft.
- File Report for Theft with the Pinellas Park Police Department: The site can provide further information on how to report a crime online.
- Wage Theft and Recovery Ordinance in Pinellas: This site provides information on wage theft violations and how you can gain recovery for missed wages.
- http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0800-0899/0812/Sections/0812.014.html o – Visit Online Sunshine, the official website of the Florida Legislature for the full statutory language of theft. Also, find out the value of the stolen property that constitutes petit theft versus grand theft.
- Stealing Addiction Treatment: Theft can become an addiction, just like so many other crimes. If you need support, consider contacting the SAMHSA National Helpline.
Theft Defense Lawyer in Pinellas County, FL
If you’ve been arrested for a theft crime in Pinellas County, please contact our criminal defense lawyers for a swift and aggressive response.
Our experienced team regularly helps people charged with both false accusations or in need of a strong defense, to gain a future free from the consequences of prison and a criminal record.
Our Pinellas County criminal defense attorneys at Battaglia, Ross, Dicus & McQuaid, P.A., are part of one of Tampa Bay’s most prestigious law firms. We have the reputation and connections to make things happen.
Contact us today for a free consultation to get started or CALL (727) 381-2300