Grand Theft and Grand Theft Auto
In Florida, there isn’t a specific statute for Grand Theft Auto, but instead is handled as a theft crime. Theft crimes in Florida are covered by Fla. Stat. § 812.014.
Auto theft cases most often arise when someone who has a rental car and keeps it too long. The most practical way to avoid an auto theft charge when renting is to keep regular and constant communication with the rental agency if you keep the car longer than the initially agreed upon rental term.
In Florida, to prove the crime of theft, the prosecutor must prove two things beyond a reasonable doubt:
- That the defendant knowingly and unlawfully obtained or used the property of another; and
- That the defendant did so with the intent to either temporarily or permanently deprive the rightful owner of the use or benefit of their property.
Reviewing the Florida jury instructions 14.1 on theft is always the best place to go to understand the statutory scheme in Florida.
The theft statute breaks out the monetary values into the three levels below. Each level or degree carries a more significant sentence.
- Theft of property under three hundred dollars is a misdemeanor. Think of this as Petty Theft. If one has two or more misdemeanor theft charges, the prosecutor may, at his/her discretion, prosecute a third petty theft arrest as a third-degree felony. A felony of the third degree carries a maximum five-year prison term. Theft of property more than three hundred dollars, but less than twenty thousand dollars is a felony of the third degree.
- Theft of property more than twenty thousand dollars, but less than one hundred thousand dollars is a theft in the second degree. A second degree theft charge is a second degree felony and carries a maximum fifteen-year prison term.
- Theft of property of value more than one hundred thousand dollars is theft in the first degree and is a first degree felony. A first degree felony carries a maximum thirty-year prison term.
Petty thefts, less than three hundred dollars, often are disposed of in a pretrial diversion program. If your arrest is for an amount of less than three hundred dollars and you, after discussing this with an attorney, elect not to mount a legal defense, your option in many counties in Florida is to participate in a pretrial diversion program. A pretrial diversion program is an alternative or non-criminal process. A pretrial diversion program completed will resolve with the case being withdrawn. The legal term for this result is nolle prose.
One legal defense to an accusation of theft is a good faith belief in your ownership or right to possess the property. Another defense is that the owner had consented or given possession or use of the property to you. The question of entrapment is handled differently in most states. In Florida, the defense of entrapment to a theft charge is limited and not available, except in circumstances that are both complex and require a complete discussion with your criminal defense attorney.