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Distinguishing Theft and Robbery Under Florida Law

The Orlando Sentinel recently reported that law enforcement authorities have arrested a 23-year-old man whom they believe is in involved in at least two convenience store robberies. Hector Martin Pereira is accused of robbing both a Circle K and a Kangaroo Express on February 6, 2016. A Circle K employee is alleging that Pereira removed a black pistol from his waistband and told the cashier to place all of the cash from the register into a plastic bag, along with a large amount of cigars and cigarettes. Police then used surveillance videos and witness descriptions to implicate Pereira in the robbery of a Kangaroo Express, as well. Currently, Pereira is charged with robbery of a commercial business with a firearm, grand theft, and aggravated assault with a firearm.

Defining the Crimes of Grand Theft and Petit Theft in Florida

Both theft and robbery are property crimes in the state of Florida, but their definitions differ substantially. Under 2015 Florida Statutes §812.014, an individual commits the criminal offense of theft if he or she knowingly obtains or uses, or endeavors to obtain or use, another’s property, with the intent to temporarily or permanently deprive that person of the use of or benefit from the property, or appropriate the property to his or her use or to the use of anyone else who is not entitled to use the property. Theft is also commonly referred to as larceny in Florida. Depending on the value or type of the items stolen or the other circumstances related to the theft, the crime can be classified as grand theft or petit theft, and each offense may be of varying degrees. The primary difference between grand and petit theft is petit theft is usually charged when the property is valued at less than $300. Grand theft is usually charged when the allegedly stolen item is valued at $300 or more, or alternatively, if the property belongs to a class of items which the legislature has decided to make the theft of, a felony, regardless of value. For instance, stealing a firearm automatically classifies the crime as grand theft of the third degree and a felony of the third degree and is commonly referred to as grand theft of a firearm. The value of the firearm makes no difference, however, in the rare event that an officer wanted to give you a break, he could charge you with petit theft if the value of the gun as under $300 or he could charge you with both offenses.

A grand theft conviction, which is a felony, results in more severe penalties than a petit theft conviction, which is a misdemeanor.  Florida law is interesting in that there are many items that are specifically targeted to make the theft of such, automatically a felony. Some of these items are: (theft of) citrus fruit of 2000 pieces or more, controlled substances of any amount, a stop sign, fire extinguisher, a will, certain farm animals including pigs, horses, and cattle or any commercially farmed or grazing animal regardless of type, bee colonies, common ammonia, or any type of motor vehicle.  Theft of anything from a construction site is also a felony.  As a practical matter, if you are charged with stealing less that 2000 oranges, if the value is $300 or more, you will still likely be charged with grand theft due to the amount being equal or greater than $300. Also beware of taking any type of vehicle without the owner’s permission or alternatively, keeping a vehicle belonging to someone else longer than the time for which you have been granted permission.  Many Floridians are arrested and charged with grand theft auto for allegedly taking various types of vehicles other than cars such as golf carts, motorcycles, recreational vehicles, off-road vehicles, scooters, and all terrain vehicles (atv’s) because 2015 Florida Statutes §320.01 and §316.003 defines motor vehicles as self-propelled vehicles which are not operated upon rails or guideways, but they exclude bicycles, motorized scooters, electric personal assistive mobility devices, swamp buggies, and mopeds.

Defining the Crime of Robbery in Florida

On the other hand, 2015 Florida Statutes §812.13 defines robbery, which is generally a more serious crime than theft. Under Florida law, robbery is the taking of money or other property which may be the subject of larceny from the person or custody of another, with the intent to either temporarily or permanently deprive the person or the owner of the money or other property, when in the course of the taking there is the use of force, violence, assault, or putting in fear. The major difference between theft and robbery is the element of acting so as to commit bodily harm, or to put the person in fear of bodily harm. Since Pereira used a weapon to demand money from the Circle K cashier, he now faces robbery charges.

Contact the Offices of Salazar & Kelly Law Group, P.A., for the Criminal Defense That You Need

If you or a loved one has been charged with theft, robbery, or another criminal offense, your first phone call should be to the Kissimmee criminal defense attorneys at Salazar & Kelly Law Group, P.A. who have the experience that you need in this type of situation. We can investigate your case, explain the relevant laws, consider your options, and immediately start building a strong defense on your behalf. Call 407-483-0500 right away, and set up a consultation at the office location that is most convenient for you.

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