Theft crimes vary in Florida. They range from the relatively minor, such as petit theft or shoplifting, to the potentially serious – as measured by the potential for felony-level prison sentences and fines – such as grand theft. The degree of seriousness depends in part on the value of the allegedly stolen property, and to some extent on the circumstances under which it was taken from its rightful owner.
Theft is an intent-based crime, meaning that ordinarily to be accused of it you must have knowingly deprived another of his or her possession or use of property. But sometimes you can get into trouble on theft charges with less than a “knowing” level of awareness of what you are doing. This happens most frequently in situations in which people are accused of dealing in stolen goods.
The classic example of running into trouble with stolen items is the pawn shop case. It can be hard at times for the owner of such a business to know whether a customer bringing in an item is the rightful owner or not, but the law does not always require actual knowledge that something is stolen to be criminally liable: if the receiver of property is in a position where he or she “should” know that it is stolen, that can be sufficient for the state to level a second-degree felony accusation for dealing in stolen goods.
So if someone approaches you in a store parking lot offering to sell you a set of automobile tires and rims from the back of his van, you may want to be circumspect if you suspect that he is not the rightful owner of what he is offering you. “I didn’t actually know that they were stolen” may not serve you well as a rationale if police accuse you of buying stolen goods.
A conviction for theft can follow you in ways other than incarceration and fines. At Escobar & Associates, we know that to minimize if not avoid the prospect of having to face both immediate and long-term negative effects of a theft conviction you will need a thorough defense that will make use of every fact and every legitimate interpretation of Florida law available to you. To learn more about how we defend our clients against theft accusations, see our webpage on the topic.