Facing Theft Charges in Miami, Florida: What You Need to Know
If you have been arrested and charged with theft or larceny in Miami, you are likely feeling stressed and overwhelmed. Theft charges can carry serious penalties, even for first-time offenders under Florida law. Understanding your rights and options is critical when building your defense strategy. Here is what you need to know about facing theft charges in Miami and how experienced theft lawyers can help.
Overview of Theft Laws in Florida
Florida divides theft crimes into categories based on the value of property stolen:
This refers to the theft of property valued under $750. Petit theft of the first degree (property value $100 to $750) is a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail. Petit theft of the second degree (under $100) is a second-degree misdemeanor with up to 60 days in jail.
Grand theft applies when stolen property exceeds $750 in value. Grand theft in the third degree ($750 to $5,000) is a third-degree felony with up to five years in prison. Grand theft in the second degree ($5,000 to $10,000) is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years. Grand theft in the first degree (over $10,000) is a first-degree felony with up to 30 years in prison.
Penalties can be enhanced if certain conditions are met, such as theft from a dwelling or cargo trailer, theft during a state of emergency, or repeat offenses. Minimum mandatory sentences may also apply.
Shoplifting items worth $750 or less is petit theft while taking merchandise over $750 qualifies as grand theft. Shoplifting tools like wire cutters or anti-security tags may lead to a separate burglary tools charge.
Common Defenses Against Theft Charges
Some of the most common defenses against theft charges under Florida law include:
- You didn’t intend to deprive the owner: Theft requires proof you intended to deprive the owner of their property permanently. For example, you borrowed an item without permission but planned to return it.
- You had consent or claim of right: You had permission to take the property or a good faith belief it belonged to you. This applies if the owner consented, you were retrieving your own property, or you had a claim of ownership.
- Misidentification: Someone else committed the theft, and you were wrongly identified as the perpetrator. Eyewitness misidentification is common.
Theft Charges: What to Expect & Steps to Take
If you are facing theft charges in Miami, here are some steps to take:
- Hire a criminal defense attorney - Having an experienced lawyer is critical to building your strongest defense and negotiating with prosecutors. Don’t go it alone.
- Get your case details - Your attorney will review the police report, evidence, witness statements, and other details to start forming your defense strategy.
- Consider diversion programs - First-time offenders may be eligible for pretrial diversion to avoid a conviction. This may involve counseling, community service, restitution, or other requirements.
- Plea bargaining - Your lawyer may negotiate with the prosecution to reduce the charges to a lesser offense in exchange for a guilty plea. This avoids trial and reduces potential penalties.
- Prepare your defense for trial - If no plea bargain is reached, your attorney will summon witnesses, obtain expert testimony, file motions to suppress evidence, and fully prepare your trial defense.
- Consider jury trial or bench trial - You have a right to a jury trial, or your lawyer may advise a bench trial where the judge decides the verdict. There are strategic reasons for both options.
How a Miami Theft Defense Lawyer Can Help
Theft charges should never be faced alone. An experienced Miami criminal defense attorney can provide invaluable help:
- Analyze the prosecution’s case and identify weaknesses to exploit
- Advise you of all possible defenses based on the unique details of your case
- Negotiate with the prosecution for reduced charges or diversion programs
- Prepare motions to suppress evidence or statements
- Thoroughly investigate your case and interview witnesses
- Obtain expert witnesses or private investigators when needed
- Guide you through the justice system and protect your rights
- Develop an optimized defense strategy for trial or settlement
- Handle all communications with police and prosecutors on your behalf
When facing theft charges, you need an aggressive defense lawyer in your corner. Don’t leave your fate to chance. Contact a seasoned Miami theft defense attorney today for a free case review. The right defense can make all the difference.
About David Edelstein
David Edelstein has been practicing criminal defense in Miami, Florida, for over 25 years. He represents clients in both state and federal courts.