Theft crimes are a fairly common occurrence. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, there are about three times as many property crimes as violent crimes each year, with millions of total property crimes happening annually in the United States. Because of the widespread nature of these incidents, it is likely that you may find yourself charged with some kind of theft during your life. The fact that many things are stolen so often also tends to work in the favor of defendants, as most police departments and prosecutors can only devote so much time, energy, and resources to recovering each stolen item and holding the perpetrator accountable.
What types of thefts are there?
There are misdemeanors for stealing items or currency in a small amount of usually a few hundred dollars or less, which are called petit theft. However, any theft that is valued at more than a few hundred dollars will be charged as grand theft or another related felony such as larceny.
Auto theft is also extremely common in the state of Florida. Some places such as Leon County, report that about 406 out of every 100,000 cars are stolen in the area, making it one of the most dense with car thefts in the nation and the highest rate in the state. Orlando is another major city in Florida that routinely receives press related to mass amounts of cars being stolen.
There are also less obvious kinds of theft which rarely make the news, such as homeless people stealing food from grocery stores or vendors because they cannot afford to eat.
How many people are actually punished for these crimes?
It is difficult to get an estimate of how many people are formally charged, arrested, or convicted for these crimes. Many thefts are reported or investigated but never solved, and a significant number of theft offenders who go through the criminal justice system will never actually be punished because the case goes away for any number of reasons. The police also have difficulties tracing stolen items or the people responsible once the crime has already occurred.
Considering the large volume of theft cases, and the fact that many of them are misdemeanors for stealing items valued at less than a few hundred dollars, it is no surprise that enforcement is imperfect. The state may dismiss the charges due to insufficient evidence or not having the proper witnesses or victims in court at the right time. Especially in large metro areas that have lots of violent crimes and drug offenses, police and victims may not take minor theft crimes like shoplifting as seriously. Skilled defense attorneys know how to make sure a prosecutor is forced to prove each element of the crime beyond all reasonable doubt, otherwise the defendant can walk away. If the case seems weak, they may also be able to negotiate a better plea deal which can include reduced fines, probation, or jail time.
For those who are formally charged with any kind of theft crime, it is best to speak with a lawyer about your specific situation as soon as possible to receive information about any possible defenses.
Prepare for your criminal theft case with the right defense attorney
There are a number of ways any experienced criminal defense attorney can help you with all kinds of crimes related to theft. For more information about theft crimes in South Florida, contact Gabriela C. Novo. She is a former Broward County prosecutor who has dealt extensively with the local criminal justice system.