Articles Posted in Grand Theft

Plea deals can be a valuable tool for anyone charged with a crime in Florida. These arrangements allow a person to start to move on with his or her life after being charged with a Florida gun crime or another offense by working out a resolution that often includes a lesser punishment in exchange for pleading guilty. It is important, however, for anyone considering a plea deal to understand that the punishment can be enhanced if you don’t abide by the terms of the deal. Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeal recently took on the case of a Florida man who was thrown behind bars after allegedly violating the terms of his house arrest.

barbed wireThe defendant entered into a plea deal with Florida prosecutors after he was charged with armed robbery, grand theft, and petit theft. He agreed to plead guilty to the grand theft charge, and the prosecutors agreed to drop the other charges. He was sentenced to two years of supervised house arrest, followed by three years of probation. As part of the house arrest, he was required to stay at his home and permitted to leave the property only for school, work, community service, and other limited purposes.

The defendant was later charged with violating the terms of his release by leaving the residence without an approved reason and failing to submit to electronic monitoring. Following a hearing, he was sentenced to three years in state prison. The judge said the defendant posed a threat to the community, based partly on some of the original allegations against the defendant in the robbery and theft case. He appealed the decision, arguing that the judge should not have taken into account any allegations related to the charges that were dropped. The Fifth District agreed in part.

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Cell PhoneThe value of the stolen items is a required element in proving a Florida theft crime. The greater the value of the allegedly stolen item, the harsher the potential penalty. There are a variety of methods that the parties to a theft crime use to establish the value of a stolen item. A November 2017 Fifth District Court of Appeals decision overturned a grand theft conviction because the prosecution had failed to establish the value of the property beyond a reasonable doubt.

The court in this case relied on a 2013 decision, C.G. v. State of Florida, to determine the appropriate method to establish the valuation of stolen property under Florida law. At trial, the defendant was convicted of first-degree petit theft for stealing a cell phone with a value of $100 or more but less than $300. The Fifth District court held that there was not sufficient evidence to show that the cell phone’s value was at least $100.

The victim of the theft testified that he paid $200 for the cell phone six months before the theft and that the cell phone was in essentially the same condition at the time it was stolen as it was when it was purchased. The court, in reciting the applicable law, stated that the value of a stolen item at the time of the theft must be established beyond a reasonable doubt. Value may be established through direct testimony of fair market value. In the absence of direct testimony, its value can be established through evidence of:  (1) the original market cost; (2) the manner in which the property was used; (3) the condition of the property; and (4) the percentage of depreciation of the items since the purchase.

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Restrictions against double jeopardy, the prosecution of a person twice for the same offense, are a foundational protection for criminal defendants. In fact, the protection is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment. Often, it’s easy to identify when a subsequent prosecution would constitute double jeopardy. For instance, if a defendant is found not guilty of a crime by a jury, another prosecutor is not permitted to try the defendant again for the same crime with a different jury.US Constitution

However, a recent Florida theft decision considered whether the prosecution of both carjacking and burglary of a conveyance is effectively trying a defendant for the same crime twice.

Florida Statute section 775.021(4) provided the rules of construction that served as the basis for the court’s double jeopardy analysis. Criminals are generally tried and convicted for all of the crimes that occurred in a criminal transaction or episode; however, an exception to this rule is if separate offenses require proof of the same elements of, or are subsumed by, another offense.

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