Florida Theft Laws
Overview of Florida Theft Laws
Florida laws use the legal term "theft" to describe a variety of property crimes, including larceny, stealing, misappropriation, conversion, and other offenses. In general, theft involves the unauthorized taking or use of another person's property. In a theft case, the prosecutor must prove several elements of the crime.
The prosecutor must establish the defendant's specific intent to take or use property belonging to another person. The defendant must have intended to temporarily or permanently deprive the owner of possession or use of the property. The prosecutor must show that the defendant had the criminal intent at the time when the defendant took or attempted to take the property.
Florida state laws distinguish between petit theft and grand theft. The type of theft determines whether the state will prosecute an offense as a misdemeanor or a felony. The type of theft often depends on the value of the property. 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 addition, state laws require prosecution of grand theft in the first degree for a crime during which the defendant used a motor vehicle as an instrumentality during the commission of the crime, for a purpose other than using the motor vehicle as a getaway car. State laws also permit the prosecution of grand theft in the first degree when a defendant caused over $1,000 in damage to property or the premises while carrying out the theft.
In Florida, any theft that does not qualify as a felony prosecution according to state law becomes a petit theft charge prosecuted as a misdemeanor. If the property has a value between $100 and $300 and the defendant took the property from a place other than a dwelling or home, the charge increases to petit theft in the first degree.
Defenses to Theft Charges
- Good faith belief of ownership or right to possess the property
- Consent given by the property owner
- Involuntary intoxication
Note: While entrapment serves as a defense in some states, Florida has specifically enacted statutes that preclude the defense unless law enforcement actions would not have induced participation by an ordinary, law-abiding person.
Penalties and Sentences
The punishment for theft 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 Theft Statute
Florida Statutes Sections 812.005-812.081 (scroll down for sections)
Note: State laws are constantly changing -- please contact an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.