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Florida Embezzlement Laws

Overview of Florida Embezzlement Laws

Florida has consolidated its property crimes to include many offenses under the state's legal definition of "theft." Embezzlement is one of the offenses which can be prosecuted using the state's theft laws. In general, theft involves the unauthorized taking or use of another person's property, with an intent to temporarily or permanently deprive the owner of the property.

In an embezzlement case, the state does not need to prove that the defendant initially took the victim's property without the victim's consent; entrustment may have happened voluntarily. However, the prosecutor does need to prove that the defendant later intentionally spent, used, or took the entrusted property without the victim's consent.

Embezzlement may be charged as petit theft or grand theft in Florida. The type of theft often depends on the value of the taken property, which also determines whether the state will prosecute an offense as a misdemeanor or a felony.

Theft of property valued between $300 and $20,000 qualifies as grand theft in the third degree. Property valued between $20,000 and $100,000 becomes grand theft in the second degree, while property valued over $100,000 results in a charge of grand theft in the first degree. In Florida, any theft that does not meet the state requirements for a felony prosecution becomes a petit theft charge prosecuted as a misdemeanor.

Defenses to Embezzlement Charges

  • Good faith belief of ownership or right to possess the property
  • Consent given by the property owner beyond the initial consent required to entrust the property to the defendant

Penalties and Sentences

The punishment for embezzlement comes from the Florida laws regarding theft. The severity of the punishment depends on the degree of the theft charge. Florida state laws punish a petit theft as a second degree misdemeanor with a sentence of imprisonment for up to sixty days and a fine in an amount up to $500. If the defendant has a prior conviction for petit theft, the state may prosecute a subsequent offense as a first degree misdemeanor, which may result in a sentence of up to one year and a fine up to $1,000. If the defendant has two or more prior convictions for petit theft, the state may charge a subsequent offense as a third degree felony, which increases the potential term of imprisonment up to five years and the fine up to $5,000.Grand theft in the third degree carries the same punishment as a third degree felony.

Florida laws allow the prosecution of grand theft in the second degree as a second degree felony. A conviction for a second degree felony may be punished with a sentence of imprisonment for a term lasting up to fifteen years and a fine in an amount up to $10,000. Grand theft in the first degree results in a first degree felony charge, which can lead to a term of imprisonment for up to thirty years and a fine in an amount up to $10,000.

Florida Embezzlement Statute

Florida Statutes Section 812.012
Florida Statutes Section 812.014

Note: State laws are constantly changing -- please contact a Florida criminal defense attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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