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Florida Auto Theft Lawyer

Auto Theft

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Navigating the legal landscape can be complex, especially when you're facing potential criminal charges related to auto theft in Florida. Below, our lawyers clarify the law surrounding grand theft auto under Florida Statute 812.014 and what it means for you.

What Constitutes Auto Theft Under Florida Law?

According to Florida Statute 812.014, a person is guilty of theft if they obtain knowingly or use property of some other person with the intention of depriving the other person of that property or benefit from the property. Auto theft, a specific form of property theft, falls under this broad statute. To be specifically charged with auto theft, the vehicle must be the stolen property in question.

Different Degrees Of Grand Theft Auto Charges

Florida law outlines varying degrees of grand theft, based on the value of the property stolen and other situational factors.

Grand Theft In The First Degree

If in the course of committing theft you use a motor vehicle other than merely as a getaway vehicle, and this act results in damage to another person's property in excess of $1,000, then you can be charged with grand theft in the first degree, a felony.

Grand Theft In The Second Degree

Grand theft in the second degree applies if the stolen property (the vehicle in this case) is valued at $20,000 or more but less than $100,000. Again, this is a felony.

Grand Theft In The Third Degree

If the stolen vehicle is valued at $750 or more but less than $20,000, it is considered grand theft of the third degree, which is a felony of the third degree.

Theft During Special Circumstances

The law adds another layer of complexity if the theft occurs during a state of emergency or a riot. In such cases, the penalties are often enhanced, pushing the theft to a higher degree felony.

Petit Theft And Driver’s License Penalties

For those who steal property valued at less than $750, it falls under petit theft, which is generally considered a misdemeanor. However, if you commit petit theft and it involves a vehicle, your driver's license may be suspended for up to 6 months for the first offense, and up to 1 year for the second or subsequent offenses, as per Florida Statute 812.014(5)(b).

Coordinated Theft Activities

If you are part of a group coordinating the theft of vehicles and the total value exceeds $3,000, you can be charged with a felony of the second degree under Florida Statute 812.014(6).

Florida Auto Theft Lawyer: Understanding Defenses

Lack Of Knowledge Or Intent

Florida Statute 812.014(1) states that the person must "knowingly obtain or use, or endeavor to obtain or to use, the property of another." In other words, if you did not know that the car was stolen, or you had no intent to steal, this could be a potential defense. Intent is a crucial element in theft charges, and lack of it could significantly weaken the prosecution's case.

Permission Or Consent To Use The Vehicle

If you had the vehicle owner’s permission to use the car, you might have a viable defense. This argument seeks to nullify the part of the statute that says you must have the "intention to either permanently or temporarily deprive the other person of a right to the property or a benefit from the property."

Value Of The Property In Question

The statute places heavy emphasis on the value of the stolen property. Sometimes, the prosecution might inflate the value of the stolen car to elevate the charge to a more severe degree of theft. By providing evidence that disputes the claimed value, you may be able to downgrade the severity of the charges and potential penalties.

No Actual Theft Occurred

Sometimes, people are wrongfully accused. If you can provide an alibi or evidence that shows you were not involved in the theft or the car was not actually stolen, you might avoid conviction.

Mistake Of Fact Or Lawful Purpose

If you took the car under a mistaken belief that you had a lawful right to do so, you might have a defense under Florida law. For instance, if you were repossessing a vehicle as a part of your job and followed all lawful procedures, this could be a viable defense.

Condition Arising From Emergency Or Riot

Florida Statute 812.014 also mentions that the theft of a car during a riot or state of emergency is considered a more severe offense. However, if you can prove that you didn't take advantage of these conditions to commit the theft, you may be able to contest the enhanced penalties.

Florida Auto Theft Charges: FAQ

What Are The Penalties For Auto Theft?

The penalties for grand theft of a motor vehicle under this statute can include fines and imprisonment. It's a third-degree felony, and the penalties could include no more than five years in prison, 5 years’ probation, and fines of $5,000 maximum.

Can I Be Charged If I Didn't Know The Car Was Stolen?

The statute specifically mentions that the person must "knowingly" steal the car. Lack of knowledge can be a defense, but it's essential to consult an attorney to discuss how this could apply to your particular case.

What If I Had Permission To Use The Car?

If you had explicit permission from the vehicle owner to use the car, you could use this as a defense against auto theft charges. In this case, you would need to prove that you had no intent to deprive the owner of their property permanently or temporarily.

How Does The Value Of The Stolen Vehicle Affect My Case?

Under Florida Statute 812.014, the value of the stolen property plays a role in determining the severity of the charges. However, for motor vehicles, the law automatically categorizes the theft as grand theft of the third degree, regardless of the vehicle's value.

Can The Charges Be Enhanced Under Certain Conditions?

Yes, the statute specifies that if the theft occurs during a state of emergency or riot, the charges could be more severe. However, this enhancement would have to be proven by the prosecution.

What Defenses Can I Use?

Potential defenses could include lack of knowledge, consent from the owner, absence of intent to steal, or proving that no actual theft occurred. Other specific circumstances, such as emergency conditions or lawful repossession, could also serve as defenses.

Schedule A Meeting With Criminal Defense Attorneys You Can Trust

Trust is crucial when choosing an auto theft lawyer to represent you in a criminal case. At The Watson Firm, PLLC, our reputation speaks for itself. We have successfully defended many clients in FL, offering the skilled representation they needed to secure a favorable outcome. Call our office today at (850) 607-2929 or contact us online to arrange a confidential consultation.

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