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Theft is taking the property of another with the intent to, either temporarily or permanently, deprive them of its use. 


In Florida, the theft of property valued at more than $750 is charged as felony grand theft.  

The degree of felony, how serious the charge is (whether it is first, second or third degree) basically depends on the fair market value of the property allegedly stolen.


The state must be able to prove the fair market value of the items in order to be able to prove the degree of the crime.


First Degree Felony Grand Theft - Punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

  • Property stolen is valued at $100,000 or more

  • Property stolen was a semitrailer deployed by a law enforcement officer

  • Property stolen is shipping cargo valued at $50,000 or more

  • Using a motor vehicle in the commission of grand theft (other than as a get-away)

  • Property is damaged in excess of $1,000 during the theft 


Second Degree Felony Grand Theft – Punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

  • property stolen is valued at $20,000 or more, but less than $100,000

  • Property stolen was shipping cargo valued at less than $50,000

  • Stolen emergency medical equipment, valued at $300 or more, taken from a facility

  • law enforcement equipment, valued at $300 or more, taken from emergency vehicle


Third Degree Felony Grand Theft – Punishable by up to 5 years of prison.

  • Property stolen is valued at $750 or more, but less than $20,000

  • Property stolen is a will, codicil, or other testamentary instrument

  • Property stolen is a firearm

  • Property stolen is a motor vehicle

  • Property stolen is a farmed animal

  • Property stolen is an installed fire extinguisher

  • Property stolen is 2,000 or more individual pieces of citrus fruit

  • Property stolen from construction site identified by the posting of a sign

  • Property stolen is a stop sign.

  • Property stolen is Anhydrous ammonia.

  • Property stolen is a controlled substance (any amount)


Defenses to Theft

Claim of Right 


(the “It’s mine too” defense) - A good faith belief in one's right to possession of property is a defense to the charge of theft.


Let’s say someone owns a cell phone and lets her roommate use it whenever the roomate wants to make a phone call. Later they have a falling out. The cell phone owner gets mad when she can’t find her phone and calls the police on her roommate.


The roommate has a “claim of right defense” because the roommate had permission to use the phone, used the phone regularly in the past, and believed that she still had permission to use it.

Defense of Mistake 


(the “I didn’t mean to” defense) -  A person can make an honest mistake and not realize that they have taken something.  For instance, forgetting to ring an item up in a self-checkout isle.

No Intent to Steal 


(the “I was gonna pay for it” defense  - Let’s say law enforcement observes a man walk into a grocery store, eat a sandwich off the shelf, and then continue placing things in his cart and shopping. Law enforcement immediately arrests the man and charges him with theft. “But I was gonna pay for it,” the man says. “You didn’t even give me a chance.”


In this case, the state will have a hard time proving that the defendant intended to steal the sandwich. The defendant can elicit evidence like he continued to shop after eating the sandwich, had not yet gotten to the register, and still had the sandwich wrapper with him to argue that he never intended to steal the sandwich and he intended to pay all along.

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