Articles Posted in Grand Theft

The Florida courts and legislature treat juvenile offenders differently than adults who commit crimes. For example, if a juvenile offender receives a sentence of over twenty years in prison, they are entitled to judicial review. The right to judicial review was the subject of a recent Florida opinion delivered in a grand theft auto case, and the trial court’s failure to elucidate that right in the sentencing order constituted grounds for remand. If you are a minor charged with a crime, it is smart to speak to a St. Petersburg juvenile crime defense attorney to discuss your rights.

Facts and Procedure of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was charged with multiple crimes arising out of the theft of a vehicle and the burglary of a dwelling. He entered an open guilty plea, after which he was convicted of the charged offenses. He received a prison sentence of 35 years, followed by 16 years of probation. He then appealed.

The Right to Judicial Review in Juvenile Cases

The defendant raised multiple grounds on appeal. The court rejected each of his arguments in turn but remanded the matter for two specific purposes. First, the court noted that the trial court must enter a written order that allows for the judicial review of the defendant’s sentence after twenty years, as required by the Florida Statutes. Although the topic of judicial review was discussed during the sentencing hearing, the court failed to provide a written order to that effect. Therefore, the court held that it was necessary for the trial court to rectify this omission by issuing a written order. Continue Reading ›

COVID-19 ravaged prisons throughout Florida and the country, ultimately costing many people their lives. In light of that fact, the Florida courts have granted some inmates compassionate release. The mere fact that a person may contract COVID-19 is not adequate grounds for granting such relief, though, as discussed in a recent opinion issued by a Florida court. If you have questions regarding compassionate release or your rights as a criminal defendant, it is in your best interest to speak to a St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

Procedural History of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant was indicted for multiple counts of fraud and receiving healthcare kickbacks in violation of federal law. She entered into a plea agreement for one of the counts and was sentenced to eighteen months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. She began serving her sentence in October 2021 after delaying her surrender date on multiple occasions. She then moved for compassionate release due to the risk of contracting COVID-19 during her incarceration. The government filed a response in opposition to her motion. The court ultimately denied her request.

Grounds for Granting Compassionate Release

While the court noted that the defendant exhausted her administrative remedies as required to seek such relief, it nonetheless found that compassionate release was not warranted for numerous reasons. First, the defendant had not shown that there were compelling and extraordinary reasons supporting her request. Continue Reading ›

To convict a defendant of a crime, the state is required to prove each element of the crime. Many crimes require the state to prove the defendant’s state of mind at the time the crime was allegedly committed. For example, to convict a defendant of trespass in an unoccupied conveyance, also known as a car, the state must prove that the trespass was willful, meaning the defendant either knew or should have known the car was stolen.  If the state does not produce sufficient evidence the trespass was willful, a conviction for trespass in an unoccupied conveyance will not stand.

In T.A.K. v. Floridaa recent case arising out of a Florida Court of Appeals, the court held that hiding from the police in a stolen car is insufficient evidence to prove the defendant knew the car was stolen. If you are a juvenile facing criminal charges in St. Petersburg, it is essential that your attorney understands the state’s burden in proving its case against you to help you prepare a strong defense.

Factual Scenario

Allegedly, the owner of a car reported her car was missing and denied giving anyone else permission to take her car. The police tracked down the car to a nearby apartment building. When the officers first saw the car, they observed a man reclining in the driver’s seat. They did not notice any movement in the car or see anyone leave the car. When the officers approached the car, they opened the passenger door and saw only a man in the passenger seat. The police officers then opened the driver’s side door and noticed the defendant on the floor in the back of the vehicle, in between the front and back seats. The defendant was subsequently charged with trespass in an unoccupied conveyance. At the close of the state’s case, the defendant moved for the dismissal of the charges against him, on the grounds the state failed to show he knew or should have known the car was stolen. The court denied the defendant’s motion and he was convicted of the charges and placed on juvenile probation. The defendant subsequently appealed.

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Law enforcement has broad discretion to enforce the laws. Still, it’s sometimes surprising to see how far a case can proceed before a court overturns a conviction. In fact, the defendant in a recent Florida grand theft decision was arguably doing his job as a repo man when he was charged with grand theft auto and theft of property. It wasn’t until the appeals court heard his case, after a conviction, that he was cleared of the crimes.The defendant was formerly a bail bond agent, who had his license revoked. He started working with another agent to provide bond premium financing. One individual sought his services for a loan and provided the title to her vehicle as security. After she defaulted on the loan, the defendant re-possessed her vehicle. The defendant and his co-worker notified the police that the re-possession occurred as a result of delinquent loan payments. The car owner had several personal belongings in the car. She reported to the police that her car and its contents had been stolen. The defendant was arrested and charged with grand theft auto and theft of property. His defense attorney moved for judgment of acquittal on all of the charges because the defendant lacked the requisite intent for grand theft auto, and the theft charge would be a double jeopardy violation. The trial court denied the motion.

The crime of theft is a specific intent offense. Under Florida law, specific intent requires that the prosecution show that the defendant was aware that he or she was unlawfully taking another party’s property. In contrast, Florida courts have held that a person who takes possession of another party’s property with the good-faith belief that he or she has a right to the property lacks the specific intent to commit theft.

The court noted that the defendant re-possessed the vehicle in broad daylight and contacted police to report that he re-possessed the vehicle as a result of non-payment on the loan. The court rejected a statement made by the defendant that he would not return the vehicle even if its owner paid the amount past due. Reliance on that statement was improper because the analysis should fixate on the defendant’s intent at the time the dispossession occurred. The court could only identify one possible conclusion as to the defendant’s intent:  he took it as collateral for the unpaid loan. The court also ruled that the theft charge be dropped because it constituted a double jeopardy violation. As a result, the appeals court reversed the trial court’s decision with an order to vacate the convictions for grand theft auto and theft of property.

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