Depending on the severity of the offense, the penalties for a West Palm Beach theft charge can vary greatly. For example, first offense misdemeanor theft is considered a second-degree misdemeanor with a punishment of up to 60 days in jail and up to a $500 fine. The penalties often increase from there.
If a person has a second misdemeanor theft that the person is convicted of, that elevates the crime to a first-degree misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. If a person has two prior convictions for petit theft and that person receives a third petit theft, if convicted, that charge can become a felony. Such a charge would punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. In general, the more a person is alleged to have taken the more severe their penalties will be. For a better understanding of potential consequences and what you may face, consult with a West Palm Beach theft lawyer today.
There are three different degrees of a felony in Florida. A third-degree felony would be anything from $300 in value up to $20,000 in value. The penalties for that particular West Palm Beach theft charge are up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
If a person is charged with stealing over $20,000 but less than $100,000, that is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison or a $15,000 fine.
Lastly, if a person is charged with theft over $100,000, that is a first-degree felony punishable by up to 25 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. With all these charges, the goal of an attorney is to get the charges dismissed or reduced to make sure that the client does not get convicted of any crime or go to jail.
Building a Defense in West Palm Beach
For any crime, the basic element is that it has to be an intentional act. A lot of times with shoplifting, moms may have their toddlers in strollers, and the toddler may pull something off the shelf and put it in the stroller without the mom noticing. They may then walk out the door, and a sensor may go off indicating that something has been taken.
That mom did walk out of the store without paying for something, but since she did not know that item was there it was not an intentional act. Although it was an accident, that individual may still be arrested, charged, or cited for theft.
When determining the degree of theft, an attorney will want to uncover if the act was intentional and what the actual value of the item is. If someone were to take something, is the value the actual value or the cost of something new? An attorney may be able to get the value down to a lower level charge.
Many times, people are charged with theft over $300, but it is a value like $350 or $320, just over the threshold. To lessen any potential penalties of a West Palm Beach theft charge, an attorney may try and negotiate that level down to a misdemeanor.
Finally, the question with theft charges always becomes, “Can they pay it back?” If an individual is able to give back the value of the item they took, it may resolve the case. Those are some of the things that an attorney looks at initially to try and blunt or stop the charges from coming to court. Or, if they are in court, try and resolve them before they go to trial.
When presenting a defense, an expert may be used when there is a question as to the value of the property that was allegedly taken. The person might want to hire an appraiser or independent appraiser to determine exactly how much the property was worth. Many times, especially in a retail environment, there may be expensive department stores that claim to possess $800 belts or coats and shoes worth thousands of dollars.
Some clients may hire an expert to determine what is happening in a surveillance video. An individual may possess a videotape where they cannot see exactly what is on the video, so they hire a company to enhance the DVD or the digital evidence that has been given to that person as proof.
Burden of Proof
In order to prove the charge, the prosecutors have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused person tried to take the property of another with the intent of temporarily or permanently depriving the rightful owner of that property. That is proof that a person took the items in question. The prosecutor then must prove the value of that property and that the taking of it was intentional.
The degree of theft would depend upon the value of the property that was taken, so the prosecutor has to prove key elements. These include that the person did it, that they did it with the intention to deprive the rightful owner of benefit of the property permanently or temporarily, and the value of the property. If the value is an object and no one can tell the person how much it is worth, the charge is reduced to a misdemeanor.