Grand theft, in Florida, happens when someone intentionally and unlawfully takes property that is worth at least $300. It is a felony offense and penalties can be harsh. Grand theft occurs in cases, such as:
- If a defendant unlawfully and knowingly took or used someone else’s property.
- The defendant did so to permanently or temporarily take possession away from the owner.
- The property was worth at least $300.
Laws and Penalties
The penalty for grand theft depends on the classification of the charge. Usually, this in turn depends on the value of the property. The higher the value, the higher the degree of theft, the higher the penalties. As such:
- 3rd degree grand theft – if the value of the property is between $300 and $20,000, is a testamentary instrument, is a motor vehicle, is a firearm, is a commercially farmed animal, is at least 2,000 pieces of citrus fruits, is a fire extinguisher, is something taken from an official construction site, is anhydrous ammonia, is a stop sign or is a controlled substance. As a 3rd degree felony, an offender can be sentenced to up 5 years in prison and/or probation and/or a $5,000 fine.
- 2nd degree grand theft – if the value of the property is between $20,000 and $100,000, if it is cargo worth no more than $50,000, if it is emergency medical equipment worth at least $300, if it is law enforcement equipment worth at least $300. The penalty for a 2nd degree felony is up to 15 years in prison and/or probation and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
- 1st degree grand theft – if the value of the property is at least $100,000, if it is cargo worth at least $50,000, if a motor vehicle is used to commit the offense or if damage to property is caused by the offense and exceeds $1,000. The penalty for a 1st degree felony is a maximum of 30 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
Grand theft is classed as a crime with “specific intent.” This means that the defendant has taken property from another person, specifically to deprive him or her of that property.
Grand Theft Defenses
Convictions for grand theft only happen if there is clear evidence that demonstrates felonious intent beyond reasonable doubt. As such, most defense relies on establishing reasonable doubt. Additionally, the following defenses are often used:
- Lack of intent, particularly if it can be shown that there was no intent to deprive someone of the property.
- Using or obtaining the property lawfully, if it can be shown that the defendant was legally entitled to use the property, or believed he or she had that right.
- Necessity or duress
- Consent, where the defendant demonstrates that the victim had agreed for the property to be taken.
- Mistake of fact, where the defendant must demonstrate that he or she believed that it was his or her own property.
Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations on grand theft cases in Florida vary depending on how serious the charge is. It is generally between five and fifteen years, depending on circumstances. The statute of limitations is also longer if any federal or state property was involved in the crime. Florida can also toll the statute for three years if the defendant is not in the state.
Grand Theft Cases
- Hillsborough couple indicted for swindling senior citizen – A couple from Hillsborough managed to get a victim to apply for several home loans and mortgages for a Florida property and other properties, and then sold these properties without returning the money to the victim.
- Vanilla Ice arrested on burglary, grand theft charges in Florida – Robert Matthew Van Winkle, better known as Vanilla Ice, has been accused of being involved in grand theft of a residence adjacent to his own. He has voluntarily surrendered to law enforcement and has been placed under arrest.
- Nicholas Brendon of ‘Buffy’ faces grand theft, criminal mischief claims – Nicholas Brendon, best known for his role in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, has been arrested on grand theft charges. Allegedly, he has caused significant damage to a hotel room and has refused to settle a bill. He has been arrested on charges relating to alcohol previously and has promised to seek help.
- Florida Keys burglary suspects found hiding in reclined car seats, deputies say – A couple from Jupiter has been accused of burglarizing a home and stealing jewelry, including four Rolex watches.
- Fla. men busted after “butt-dial” details burglary plan – Two men were discussing a burglary when one of them “butt dialed” his boss, allowing him to overhear their conversation and phone the authorities.