Definition of Grand Theft

Under Section 812.014, Florida Statutes, Grand Theft is defined as the unlawful taking or using of property, valued at $300.00 or more, with the intent to deprive the owner of his or her rights to the property.

Proof at Trial

To prove Grand Theft at trial, the prosecution must establish the following three elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. The defendant knowingly and unlawfully obtained or used or endeavored to obtain or use the property of another;
  2. The defendant did so with the intent to temporarily or permanently (a) deprive the victim of his or her right to the property or any benefit from the property, or (b) appropriate the property of the victim to his or her own use or to the use of any person not entitled to it; and
  3. The property was valued at $300 or more.

Penalties for Grand Theft

In Florida, the penalties applicable to a Grand Theft charge will depend on the value and type of property at issue.

Grand Theft: Third Degree

Grand Theft will be charged as a third degree felony, punishable by up to up to 5 years in prison or 5 years of probation and a $5,000 fine, if the property is:

  • Valued at $300 or more, but less than $20,000;
  • A will, codicil, or other testamentary instrument;
  • A firearm;
  • A motor vehicle;
  • Any commercially farmed animal;
  • Any fire extinguisher;
  • Any amount of citrus fruit consisting of 2,000 or more individual pieces of fruit;
  • Taken from a designated construction site identified by the posting of a sign as provided for in s. 810.09(2)(d);
  • Any stop sign;
  • Any amount of a controlled substance as defined in s. 893.02.

Grand Theft: Second Degree

Grand Theft is a second degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison or 15 years of probation, and a $10,000 fine, if the property is:

  • Valued at $20,000 or more, but less than $100,000;
  • Cargo valued at less than $50,000 that has entered the stream of interstate or intrastate commerce from the shipper’s loading platform to the consignee’s receiving dock;
  • Emergency medical equipment, valued at $300 or more, that is taken from a facility licensed under chapter 395 or from an aircraft or vehicle permitted under chapter 401; or
  • Law enforcement equipment, valued at $300 or more, that is taken from an authorized emergency vehicle, as defined in s. 316.003.

Grand Theft: First Degree

Grand Theft is classified as a first degree felony, punishable by up to 30 years in prison, with a maximum fine of $10,000, if the property stolen is:

  • Valued at $100,000 or more or is a semitrailer that was deployed by a law enforcement officer; or
  • Cargo valued at $50,000 or more that has entered the stream of interstate or intrastate commerce from the shipper’s loading platform to the consignee’s receiving dock; or
  • If the offender commits any grand theft and: (a) In the course of committing the offense the offender uses a motor vehicle as an instrumentality to assist in committing the offense and thereby damages the real property of another; or (b) In the course of committing the offense the offender causes damage to the real or personal property of another in excess of $1,000.

Required Intent to Steal

Grant Theft is a “specific intent” crime, which means that the defendant must not only take property belonging to another person, but must also have done so with the aim of stealing (i.e. depriving the victim of his or her rights to property).  State v. C.G., 572 So. 2d 1380, 1381 (Fla. 1991).

To sustain a conviction, there must be some substantial competent evidence from which the jury may reasonably infer the felonious intent. Mosher v. State, 750 So. 2d 120 (Fla. 3d DCA 2000).

Defenses to Grand Theft

There are many defenses available under Florida law to contest a charge of Grand Theft. Some of the more common defenses include the following:

  • Lack of Intent- If the defendant had a good faith belief that he she owned the property, had a possessory interest in the property, or had a joint ownership interest in the property, this will serve as a complete defense to the charge;
  • Obtaining or Using for Lawful Purpose- It is a defense to Grand Theft if the Defendant had a legal right to take or dispose of the property, or if he or she believed they had such a right, this too will serve as a defense to the charge;
  • Defendant acted out of Necessity or Duress;
  • Consent- a belief that the defendant had the consent of the owner to take the property;
  • Mistake of Fact- in Florida, the intent to steal does not exist where a defendant acts under the mistaken belief that the property he took was his own property. Bedoya v. State, 634 So. 2d 203, 204 (Fla. 3d DCA 1994) (citing Maddox v. State, 38 So. 2d 58 (Fla. 1948); Dean v. State, 41 Fla. 291, 26 So. 638 (1899)).

Valuation of Stolen Property

Proof of the element of value is essential to sustain a conviction for Grand Theft, and must be established by the prosecution beyond a reasonable doubt. Ramos v. State, 864 So. 2d 1250 (Fla. 5th DCA 2004).

Market Value

The general formula used to assess value in Grand Theft cases is ‘market value.’ Malloy v. State, 397 So. 2d 1218 (Fla. 1st DCA 1981).  Section 812.012(10), Florida Statutes, provides:

“Value” means value determined according to any of the following:

(a)1. Value means the market value of the property at the time and place of the offense or, if such cannot be satisfactorily ascertained, the cost of replacement of the property within a reasonable time after the offense.

Section 812.012(10)(b) further states that:

“[i]f the value of property cannot be ascertained, the trier of fact may find the value to be not less than a certain amount; if no such minimum value can be ascertained, the value is an amount less than $100.

Original Purchase Price

It is settled law in Florida that testimony as to the original purchase price of stolen property is insufficient by itself to prove value at the time of a theft. Negron v. State, 306 So. 2d 104 (Fla.1974); Soderman v. State, 844 So. 2d 823 (Fla. 5th DCA 2003); DH v. State, 864 So. 2d 588 (Fla. 2d DCA 2004).

Although original purchase price may be used as a factor in establishing value at the time of the taking, the item’s use, general condition, quality when purchased, and percentage of appreciation or depreciation since purchase must also be established. Ramos, 864 So. 2d at 1252 (citing Gilbert v. State, 817 So. 2d 980 (Fla. 4th DCA 2002)).

Replacement Cost

Where market value at the time of the theft cannot be determined, it may also be established with evidence of the replacement cost of a stolen item, although some evidence must be adduced that the replacement item was similar in value to the item stolen at the time of the taking.  Ramos, 864 So. 2d at 1252.

Retail and Speculative Value

Retail value and speculative estimates are also insufficient to establish the value of stolen property in a Grand Theft prosecution. Evans v. State, 452 So. 2d 1040 (Fla. 2d DCA 1984); In the Interest of F.R., 539 So. 2d 588, 590 (Fla. 1st DCA 1989); Weatherspoon v. State, 419 So. 2d 404 (Fla. 2d DCA 1982).

Evidence must furthermore derive from a witness who is competent to testify as to value.  Sellers v. State, 838 So. 2d 661 (Fla. 1st DCA 2003).

Contact an Attorney

If you have been charged with Grand Theft, contact the attorneys at Hussein & Webber, PL for a free consultation.  We represent clients in Jacksonville, Orlando, and the surrounding counties of northeast and central Florida.