Petit Theft / Grand Theft
PETIT THEFT / GRAND THEFT / SHOPLIFTING
If you have been arrested or charged with a theft crime in central Florida, such as shoplifting, petit theft, or grand theft, call the Law Firm of John P. Guidry for a free consultation to discuss your options. As you may be aware, theft charges can arise under many different circumstances, with charges varying in severity depending upon the value of the property allegedly stolen, and the prior record of the accused. To make matters worse, our government allows retail stores to collect civil petit theft penalties, in addition to the fines and court costs imposed in the criminal case.
One common form of theft is known as Petit Theft, where the property allegedly stolen is valued at less than $300. Typically, Petit Theft is simply a shoplifting allegation and is usually charged as a misdemeanor (can be upgraded to a Felony Theft if the accused has two prior theft crimes). Petit Theft cases are difficult to prove because the prosecutor must show that the accused “intended” to steal. Often, intent is difficult to prove because store Loss Prevention Officers (LPOs) detain shoplifting suspects before the suspect ever leaves the store. LPO's can do this because Florida law deems a “theft” completed when an item is concealed within a purse, pocket, or jacket, for example.
VALUATION IN A GRAND THEFT CASE
The value of an item allegedly stolen plays an important role as well, because anything valued over $300 is no longer a Petit Theft, but rather becomes a felony Grand Theft. “Value” is not as easy to prove as it may seem. Florida courts have ruled that the State cannot prove the value of the item merely by presenting testimony regarding the price of the item. For example, suppose an alleged victim testifies that $1,000 was paid for the item stolen, several months before the theft. A $1,000 value would support a felony Grand Theft conviction, but testimony as to a recent price paid does not prove value, so that grand theft charge should not stand. Many grand theft charges have been reduced to petit theft charges based upon valuation problems, and if you're interested, my article entitled "Grand Theft vs. Petit Theft" has a more in depth analysis of this issue.
Sometimes, value is not relevant, when the nature of the theft is focused upon "who" stole the item, rather than how much the item was worth. The prime example of this is the felony charge of theft by a hotel employee. Even a $5 bill stolen by a hotel maid is considered a felony due to the position of trust of an employee.
Theft cases can be proven without a witness to the actual taking of the item, but these cases are tough to prove. The prosecution will rely on the timing of the theft to infer that the person who possesses the recently stolen goods must have stole them. For example, if your bike is stolen, and five minutes later someone is seen riding it--the State can infer that the rider of the bike five minutes later is guilty of theft. But, what if the person is caught riding the bike an hour later? A day later? A month later? The issue of timing in a theft case is the subject of my article "Timing Can Be Everything In a Theft Case", check it out for more info.
Part of the definition of a theft is the "intent to deprive an owner of property". The problem then becomes, what if a theft accusation is merely a rightful owner attempting to retrieve his own property back? Florida courts have held that a defense to theft can be "a well-founded belief in one's right to the allegedly stolen property". For more details on this line of defense, see my article entitled "Someone Stole My Stuff, and I'm Gonna Steal It Back!".
ROBBERY = THEFT + USE OF FORCE
Another form of theft is known as robbery. Simply put, a simple theft can transform into a robbery charge where there is an accusation that 'physical force' or 'threats' were used to complete a theft. Robbery charges come in many types, all depending upon the type of force used (was a firearm used? Was a threat used? Was the item simply snatched away?). The more serious the type of force used, the more serious the robbery charge becomes. We've devoted a whole page to robbery, so check it out for further information on this serious charge.
And, of course, what discussion of theft would be complete without mentioning the up and coming theft crimes involving computers and corporate secrets. Yes, this is the stuff once the exclusive domain of 007 movies. But now, such crimes as "unlawfully obtaining trade secrets and confidential data" are basically theft crimes on a corporate level. For more details on how such crimes play out, check out my article "Unlawful Access to a Computer".
Many theft cases have fraud or embezzlement overtones. In fact, if a citizen is arrested for fraud or embezzlement, it is very likely that grand theft charges will be filed as well. There are numerous defenses to grand theft charges that involve business transactions, as these matters can merely be a civil suit dressed up in criminal clothing. One such defense is known as the "Good Faith" defense. The details of a good faith defense to theft can be found in my article "Good Faith Can Defeat a Grand Theft Charge". I'll give you the basics here by way of example. A recent case involved several investors who gave business start up capital to a defendant. The defendant then simply spent the money for his own personal gain. Sounds like an episode of American Greed, right? Anyway, as you might expect, a criminal grand theft case soon followed, yet the appeals court overturned the conviction based upon the fact that the defendant was never really told how he should spend the money.
If you are arrested and charged with any form of theft, ranging from Petit Theft, Burglary, Shoplifting, or Grand Theft, give experienced theft attorney John Guidry a call. Of course, it costs you nothing to speak with Mr. Guidry about your case, so why not give him a call?E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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