Theft crimes have two basic levels under Florida law, Petit Theft and Grand Theft. The categorization of a theft into one level or the another depends on the value of the property taken without consent, which in turn affects the potential length of sentences. These charges can have grave consequences, and someone charged with theft may require the help of a Wellington theft lawyer who has handled many of these cases.
Theft crimes include larceny, which is taking a person’s money or goods, misappropriating funds, and conversion, which happens when someone treats another person’s property as their own, thereby disenfranchising the lawful owner’s use and value of the property. Contact an experienced criminal attorney to learn more about the charges against you and how to defend yourself throughout the case.
Defining Misdemeanor Petit Crimes
Theft crimes can be misdemeanor or felony offenses in the first, second, or third degrees, with the first degree as the most serious. A court can enhance punishment under specific circumstances in certain ways, such as longer sentences for habitual offenders.
Second-degree petit theft is the unlawful taking of property that is worth $100 or less and is a misdemeanor crime punishable by 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. A first-degree petit theft of property worth $100 to $299 brings a maximum one-year prison sentence and a $1,000 fine.
What is Felony Grand Theft?
The third degree of grand theft charges involves taking property worth $300 to $19,999. This can include firearms, traffic and construction signs, commercial farm animals, fire extinguishers, and motor vehicles.
Theft of property worth $20,000 to $99,999 comprises second-degree grand theft, and values exceeding that amount are first-degree offenses. Penalties range from a maximum of five years in prison for third-degree, 15 years and up to $10,000 for second-degree and up to 30 years for first-degree offenses along with fines up to $10,000.
Wellington’s Judges in Palm Beach County have discretion in sentencing depending upon mitigating circumstances, and a Wellington theft lawyer may be able to provide mitigating circumstances to the Prosecutor and Judge in order to get the accused the least possible sentence.
Elements the Prosecution Must Prove for Theft Convictions
The Office of the State Attorney for the 15th Judicial District serving Wellington must establish the elements that makeup theft crimes. Under Florida law, the Prosecutor must establish that the property did not belong to the defendant and the defendant intended to take property belonging to someone else for personal benefit, depriving the rightful owner to temporarily or permanently of possession of the property.
The Court or a Jury may find someone not guilty if the defense can show that:
- The property was valueless
- It was equally owned by both parties
- They acted in good faith as having right to possess the property
- The property owner abandoned the property voluntarily
It is important to seek legal counsel quickly after an arrest or when you learn law enforcement is investigating you. Consulting with an attorney should occur before speaking with police to avoid self-incrimination. An experienced Wellington theft lawyer may be available to review the circumstances of the allegations at no cost.