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What is Theft

Theft is defined by Florida Statute 812.014 which say that if you take the property of another with the intent to temporarily or permanently deprive the owner of the property. This basically says if you take something that is not yours with the intent of stealing it, if you change your mind later and put it back, it is not a defense to theft.

Penalties for Theft

The some of the penalties for a first time theft include items stolen that are valued at:

  • Less $100 is a 2nd degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in jail
  • $100 to less than $300 is a 1st degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in jail
  • $300 or more but less $5,000 is a 3rd degree felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison

The penalties for theft can also be enhanced by subsequent theft. A 2nd petit theft is a first degree misdemeanor, and a 3rd petit theft is a 3rd degree felony. Also a theft can become a felony based on the item that was stolen. For example stealing a fire extinguisher may constitute a felony even though it would be a misdemeanor if it was not a fire extinguisher.

Defenses to Theft

One of the most common defenses to theft is to argue the goods are not worth as much as the prosecutor is claiming. While this is not a complete defense to theft, if the prosecutor is looking for enhanced penalties based on the value of the property stolen, then the defendant may receive a less harsh sanction. This defense sometimes works well, because the prosecutor must prove the fair market value of the property at the time it was stolen. Showing what the property cost new or what the victim paid for it is not enough. However if the item is on sale, this might not be a defense, since some courts have held that the defendant is not entitled to the benefit of a bargain.

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