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Under Florida law, theft is defined as permanently or temporarily depriving another person or an entity of property or services. It is not a legal defense that the property was returned in its original form, nor is it a defense that the person never intended to keep or even use the property. The punishment a defendant can face in court typically depends on the value of the goods or services, and whether the defendant has a prior record. The one constant is that a theft conviction can stay with a person for their entire life, which is why it is so important to retain an experienced lawyer. Benjamin Herbst is a South Florida theft lawyer who has successfully defended hundreds of clients in cases ranging from shoplifting to complex felony grand theft schemes. He is available to provide a free consultation about your case anytime at (954) 543-0305, and has a flexible meeting schedule in his Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach locations. Benjamin is also willing to meet at a convenient location anywhere from Miami to Port St. Lucie for his clients with theft cases along the Treasure Coast.
The main factor in determining the severity of a theft case is value, but value is almost always up for debate. The state can easily take advantage of an unrepresented defendant by inflating the value of the goods or services, and therefore increasing the charges. Do not let the state take advantage of you by overcharging your case. Even if the state’s evidence is strong, a South Florida lawyer who specializes in theft cases will know how to fight to reduce the charges and your exposure to punishment. Benjamin has earned numerous charge reductions, dismissals and jury trial acquittals for his clients and will continue to fight each day for the rights of defendants.
The most serious theft charge under Florida law is first-degree grand theft, which is classified as a 30-year felony. First-degree grand theft charges can occur under a variety of circumstances, but the most common is when the total value of the goods is over $100,000. The threshold is reduced to $50,000 if the stolen goods were cargo that has entered the stream of commerce or if victim was 65 years of age or older. A defendant can also be charged with grand theft in the first degree if he or she uses a motor vehicle to assist in the crime, other than using it as a getaway vehicle. This type of grand theft is commonly charged when defendants use a vehicle to ram or knock down fences, doors or walls or to carry away large stolen goods such as machinery or ATMs. Anyone who causes over $1,000 worth of damage to the property of another person during the crime also faces first-degree grand theft charges. Theft of copper or other metals from a utility service or communication service can also be charged as a first-degree felony in Florida if the theft causes damage or an interruption of service. Benjamin has successfully represented numerous individuals charged with theft of metals and other materials from cell-phone towers and utilities, and copper theft from homes and construction areas.
A defendant who is accused of stealing property with a value of over $20,000 but less than $100,000 faces second-degree felony grand theft charges punishable by up to 15 years in jail. Stealing medical equipment or law enforcement equipment with a value of more than $300 could also be charged as felony grand theft in the second degree. Grand theft in the third degree is the most common felony theft charge, as it includes stealing anything with a value of more than $750 but less than $20,000. Theft of a firearm or a motor vehicle is also considered grand theft in the third-degree, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. Less common third-degree felony thefts include stealing farm animals, fire extinguishers, stop signs, controlled substances, and property from the curtilage of a home valued at more than $100. Theft from a person 65 years of age or older is also considered a felony if the value is more than $300. Grand theft is an extremely serious offense in Florida, and anyone charged faces the possibility of a lengthy prison sentence if the case is not handled correctly. Benjamin Herbst is a skilled and experienced South Florida grand theft lawyer who handles cases in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach County, in addition to the Treasure Coast jurisdictions of Martin County and St. Lucie County.
Misdemeanor theft is better known as petit theft in Florida, and despite being handled in County Court, can lead to a potential jail sentence and a permanent criminal conviction for a crime of moral turpitude, which among other things could have significant immigration consequences. Petit theft in the first-degree is defined as stealing anything with a value of over $100 but under $750 (including services), and it carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail. Petit theft in the second-degree is stealing anything with a value of less than $100, and is commonly associated with shoplifting. This offense carries a 60-day maximum jail sentence unless the defendant has a prior theft conviction, in which case it will be elevated to a first-degree misdemeanor. Benjamin Herbst is a South Florida petit theft lawyer who knowns how important it is to put a strong defense forward in even the most minor shoplifting cases. Benjamin also specializes in defending juveniles charged with theft in Florida, and fights to preserve the background of all his juvenile clients. Benjamin is available on the phone or in person to discuss your theft case, and is standing by to explain which defenses may be available to you.
In addition to the standard types of theft charges, Benjamin also represents defendants charged with possession of altered property, and offense usually targeted at gun dealers, pawn shop owners or any other licensed dealer of goods. It is a first-degree misdemeanor to these dealers to have property with altered or obliterated serial numbers. Theft of trade secrets in another crime that Benjamin defends, and is a third-degree felony under Florida law. This offense includes copying or taking prohibited photographs of company property, regardless of whether the defendant actually profited. Benjamin also specializes in embezzlement and employee theft charges in Florida, and has successfully represented various types of employees including bookkeepers and managers.