Carjacking in Broward County: What Type of Theft Applies?
A woman who made the mistake of leaving her car running while inside a gas station returned to find the vehicle being driven off by thieves, according to a recent NBC Miami News 6 report. As part of their investigation, police reviewed the station’s security camera footage to see a man entering the car and taking off within a matter of seconds. Within hours, the perpetrators were arrested for carjacking, one of a few types of theft crimes under Florida law. The distinction between various vehicle thefts is subtle, but it’s important to understand the differences if you’re facing similar charges.
Car Theft Crimes in Florida: The intentional taking of a vehicle – temporarily or permanently – is a felony under state law, but the specific charges depend on the circumstances.
- Grand Theft: Stealing a vehicle with intent to deprive the rightful owner of its use is grand theft auto, no matter how long you take unlawful possession of it. The degree of the felony depends upon the value of the vehicle, among other factors. Because even a temporary taking is included under the description of the crime, joyriding is a type of grand theft.
- Carjacking: When you take a vehicle through use of force, violence, or threats, the offense is considered carjacking. The charges are more serious if you’re in possession of a firearm or other deadly weapon in commission of the crime.
- Fraudulent Retention: It’s also a crime to take possession of a vehicle through the use of fraud, trickery, or lies to deceive the owner. In Florida, retaining a rental car after the expiration of the contractual period without the consent of the company is a form of fraudulent retention.
Penalties: Motor vehicle theft starts as a third degree felony in Florida, punishable by a jail sentence up to five years and a maximum fine of $5,000. However, the charges increase in severity depending on the circumstances.
- Second degree felony charges apply if the vehicle is valued between $20,000 and $100,000, or is a law enforcement vehicle. A court may sentence you up to 15 years in prison with a $10,000 fine.
- For vehicles valued in excess of $100,000, or where there is damage to real or personal property during commission of the crime, the charge is a first degree felony. The criminal penalties include a jail sentence up to 30 years, along with a fine up to $10,000.
Carjacking is also a first degree felony, but if you’re in possession of a deadly weapon, you face a potential life sentence.
You Can Rely on a Qualified Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer
Regardless of the specifics of your case, Florida punishes carjacking and similar theft crimes severely. You could be looking at hefty fines and a lengthy jail sentence if convicted, but you may have defenses to fight the charges. A criminal defense attorney can help you understand the allegations and offer advice on your options, so contact the office of Fort Lauderdale lawyer Kevin J. Kulik about your case. We’re happy to schedule a free, confidential consultation to answer your questions and tell you more about Florida law on theft crimes.