Florida’s Outdated Felony Theft Charges Can Ruin Lives for Crimes as Small as Stealing a Phone
The felony theft charge threshold has been far too low in Florida for far too long: To date, theft charges become felonies if the value of what of stolen is it least $300, and this has not changed since 1986. In other words, in Florida, stealing a phone, for example, can literally ruin your life. When someone is charged with a felony, there are repercussions far beyond that one incident (as well as the five years in prison and $5,000 fine that results), including having to notify employers of your crime for the rest of your life and any and all family members being barred from access to low income housing, for example.
Like No Other State…
Meanwhile, most other states have raised their felony thresholds to keep up with inflation and try to implement some criminal justice reforms. These thresholds are usually between $1,000 and $2,500, and, according to the statistics, property crime has not increased as a result of these changes.
Two Florida Bills Introduced Would Increase The Threshold Triggers
Fortunately, this year, it appears that a number of state lawmakers are committed to substantially raising the felony threshold: Two bills introduced in the Florida House and Senate would increase the felony theft threshold to $1,000 and $750, respectively. Many are hoping that any prison funds saved by the state could instead be put towards programs to help reduce recidivism.
Would A Compromise Destroy Any Potential Progress?
While the Florida Retail Federation has historically opposed raising the felony threshold at all, this year, it said it would be willing to work with a $750 threshold, but nothing higher. However, there is one caveat to this cooperation: The Federation also wants to adjust the length of time during which theft amounts can be added together to produce a single charge; from 48 hours to 90 days. This means that it would be easier to charge people with felony theft if the value of what they steal adds up to more than $750 over the course of 90 days.
If You Have Been Charged With Felony Theft In Florida, You Must Speak With An Attorney
If you have been charged with felony theft in Florida, you have no chance of getting that charge lowered to a misdemeanor without working with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Some of your potential defenses include a lack of intent to steal the property, having the legal right to that property, acting out of necessity, believing that you had the consent of the owner, and/or believing that the property was your own.
Working with the right attorney makes all the difference when it comes to charges like these that affect the rest of your life. Contact our Orlando criminal defense attorneys at the Baez Law Firm today to find out about our experienced criminal defense services.