What Evidence is Needed for a Conviction on Theft Charges?
The penalties and collateral consequences for a conviction under Florida’s theft statute are severe, but being arrested does not mean you will be found guilty. The prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you violated the law, but they need evidence to do so. Even when witness testimony, documents, exhibits, and other materials seem substantial, the information may not be enough to meet the prosecution’s heavy burden. In some cases, the evidence may have been obtained illegally, so it must be tossed out of court.
As a result of evidence issues, you might have the charges dismissed, benefit from a plea bargain, or obtain some other favorable result. A Florida theft crimes defense lawyer will help you take advantage of all opportunities, but it is important to understand what evidence the prosecutor needs.
Elements of a Theft Crime in Florida: Theft is generally described as taking property or something of value from its rightful owner, but the statute includes a very specific definition of acts that constitute theft. To obtain a conviction, the prosecutor must prove sets of facts that meet this statutory definition. The essential elements are:
- Knowledge: You can only be convicted if you knowingly obtained or used the property of another person. If you made a mistake about ownership or came into possession of the item through error, the prosecutor did not prove the knowledge element.
- Intent: You must have intended to deprive the rightful owner of the property OR appropriated it for yourself. Taking possession of an abandoned item with the intent to return it does not meet the intent element.
Evidence and Theft Classifications: Evidence is also important for purposes of the specific theft charges you face, since there are different classifications depending on the value of the property. Petit theft of the first and second degree involve amounts under $100 and $100-$300, respectively. Grand theft is based upon value and the type of property, such as a will, firearms, and other items. As such, evidence of the item’s value could be the difference between a misdemeanor for petit theft and a felony for grand theft.
Motions Regarding Evidence: Your lawyer may use motions to achieve certain goals that work to your favor with respect to evidence.
- Exclude evidence that was improperly obtained in violation of your civil rights, which means the prosecutor does not have sufficient proof to meet the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard;
- Bring in evidence that disproves the essential elements; and/or,
- Introduce evidence regarding the value of the property, which could take a felony down to a misdemeanor – and reduces potential punishment for a conviction.
Get Additional Details from a Florida Theft Crimes Defense Attorney
If you were arrested on theft charges, it is essential to retain an experienced lawyer who can assist with developing a defense around evidentiary issues. For more information, please contact Fort Lauderdale theft attorney Kevin J. Kulik to set up a consultation at our offices. Once we review the details of your case, we can advise you on potential defense strategies.