CRIMINAL ATTORNEY DEFENDING THOSE ACCUSED OF THEFT CRIMES IN TAMPA
Wherever there is law, stealing is illegal. It’s a simple rule, but in today’s world, thieves are constantly dreaming up new ways to steal, so it can be tough for police agencies and prosecutors to keep pace. Sometimes the authorities make mistakes, and the wrong person is accused of theft.
WHAT ARE THE THEFT LAWS IN TAMPA?
A conviction for any theft in Florida – and that includes shoplifting – may be punished with a severe fine, probation, and/or time in jail. A felony conviction for grand theft can even send an offender to prison. Florida enforces the following specific laws to punish and prevent theft:
- When the stolen property is valued at less than $100, the charge is second-degree petty theft. A conviction is punishable with a fine of up to $500 and sixty days in jail.
- When the stolen property is valued from $100 to $299, the charge is first-degree petty theft. A conviction is punishable with a fine of up to $1,000 and a year in jail.
- When the stolen property is valued from $300 to $19,999, the charge is third-degree grand theft, punishable upon conviction with a $5,000 fine and five years in prison.
- Second-degree grand theft is charged when the stolen property is valued at $20,000 to $99,999. A second-degree grand theft conviction is punishable with a $10,000 fine and fifteen years in prison.
- First-degree grand theft is charged when the stolen property is valued at or above $100,000. A first-degree grand theft conviction may be penalized with a $10,000 fine and up to thirty years in prison.
WHAT ELSE SHOULD YOU KNOW ABOUT FLORIDA’S THEFT LAWS?
Additionally, third-degree grand theft is the charge if the stolen property is a firearm, a motor vehicle, a fire extinguisher, a quantity of fruit consisting of 2,000 or more pieces, a commercial farm animal, a construction sign, a stop sign, or anhydrous ammonia.
Actual sentences for theft vary and depend on the specifics of the charge and the defendant’s criminal history. Defendants with prior convictions for theft will face more serious charges and penalties.
A THEFT CONVICTION ENTAILS “EXTRA-LEGAL” CONSEQUENCES
And because it is a crime of dishonesty, the legal penalties for a theft conviction are only the beginning of the consequences. If you testify in a courtroom in the future about any matter, an attorney may be able to use your conviction for theft to discredit your testimony.
If you hold a professional license in Florida, you can expect disciplinary action from your professional licensing board after a theft conviction. If you are an immigrant, a theft conviction could make you subject to deportation. If you’re seeking work, employers may not trust you.
WHAT ARE THE LEGAL DEFENSES TO A THEFT CHARGE?
Before someone can be convicted of theft, a prosecutor must prove that person’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. That task is not always easy, because a number of legal defenses may apply in theft cases.
If there was an honest misunderstanding with no criminal intent, and if a defendant honestly believed that he or she was the legal owner of the property, this may be an effective defense.
In other theft cases, a defendant may have been misidentified by an eyewitness. And in still other cases, the defendant may be the victim of a fabricated allegation, and no theft actually occurred.
WHAT ROLE DO DEFENSE LAWYERS PLAY IN THEFT CASES?
An experienced Tampa criminal defense lawyer can review the details of a theft case and decide what is the most effective defense strategy. If a defense attorney can’t have a theft charge dropped or dismissed, he or she will probably suggest going to trial and seeking an acquittal.
However, if the state’s evidence against a theft defendant is conclusive, and if a conviction is certain, a defense lawyer may instead negotiate a plea bargain that lets the defendant plead guilty to a lesser charge in return for a lesser sentence.
If you are placed under arrest on a theft charge, do not even consider acting as your own lawyer. Your future and freedom will be at stake. Exercise – politely – your right to remain silent. That’s important. Do not say anything to the police or the prosecutor unless your lawyer is present.
ABOUT TAMPA ATTORNEY PAT COURTNEY
Tampa criminal defense lawyer Patrick B. Courtney has more than 24 years of experience as an attorney. He represents clients who are charged with theft and other crimes in Sarasota, Hillsborough, Pasco, Polk, Manatee, and Pinellas counties.
Pat Courtney’s legal background is extensive – he’s been a prosecutor – so he knows how theft cases are handled, how to protect a defendant’s rights, and how to bring a theft case to its best possible conclusion.
Find out more by calling his law offices at (813) 967-2000 or by completing the contact form on this website.