If you or a loved one have been arrested for a theft charge in Okaloosa County, the actions you take now to defend yourself can make an enormous difference in the outcome.
My name is Tim Flaherty. Brandy Merrifield is my partner. We are Okaloosa County theft lawyers who defend locals, vacationers, and military members accused of theft crimes. Call us at Flaherty & Merrifield for a free consultation.
Common Theft Offenses in Okaloosa County
There are various theft charges that will be discussed briefly on this page, but you can click on the following links for more detailed information about the most common theft offenses that we defend:
What is Theft under Florida law?
Theft is defined by Florida Statute 812.014. The two elements the State must prove before someone can be convicted of theft are:
- Defendant knowingly and unlawfully obtained or used the property of the victim.
- Defendant did so with intent to, either temporarily or permanently, (a) deprive a victim of his right to the property or any benefit from it, or (b) appropriate the property for his or her own use or to the use of any person not entitled to it.
Theft is broken down into two categories, misdemeanor and felony. The amount of the theft will determine the level and degree of the charge.
Misdemeanor theft includes Petit Theft, and Shoplifting/Retail Theft. Each of these charges carry a maximum sentence of 1 year in county jail or 1 year of probation along with fines and court costs.
Felony theft is divided into sub categories based on the value of the property alleged to have been stolen.
Third Degree felony theft charges are punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Common charges that fall into this category include:
- Grand Theft between $750-$20,000, also called Grand Larceny
- Credit Card Fraud
- Grand Theft of an Automobile
- Pawn Fraud under $300
Second Degree felony theft charges are punishable by up to 15 years in prison and $10,000 fine. Common charges that fall into this category include:
- Grand Theft between $20,000-$100,000, also called Grand Larceny
- Dealing in Stolen Property
- Pawn Fraud over $3000
First Degree felony theft charges are punishable by up to 30 years in prison. Common charges that fall into this category include:
- Grand Theft of more than $10,000 from a person over the age of 65
Defenses to an Okaloosa County Theft Accusation
Just because you were accused of or arrested for a theft offense in Okaloosa County does not mean you have been convicted. No criminal theft accusation is hopeless. An experienced criminal defense attorney can explain your options and show you the path to a successful outcome. Theft is a crime of intent. This means that the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you “intended” to deprive another person of their rightful property. Fighting a theft accusation means demanding that the State prove you had the intent. We will explore every option and defense available to you.
- Did the alleged victim own the property?
- What evidence does the State have to prove the property was stolen?
- Did you have a legitimate right to the property?
- What is the value of the property?
- Is the property recoverable?
While exploring trial and defense options we will also pursue ways to resolve the case with no conviction on your record. In many cases we have been able to secure diversion programs for our clients that result in a full dismissal.
Pretrial Diversion is a resolution that results in dismissal of the theft charge once you complete some conditions. In some cases, restitution and attending a theft awareness course may be ordered. No matter what conditions you have to do, the goal is to get the case dismissed.
Restitution in Okaloosa County Theft Cases
Restitution is a form of compensation for the victim of a criminal case. In theft cases, restitution can be used to leverage a favorable outcome. Most theft cases occur because someone has been deprived of their personal property. The Court will be looking to make the victim whole. That means if you are charged with a theft crime, you can expect to pay restitution in addition to fines and court costs.
Florida Statute §775.089 provides: In addition to any punishment, the court shall order the defendant to make restitution to the victim for:
- Damage or loss caused directly or indirectly by the defendant’s offense; and
- Damage or loss related to the defendant’s criminal episode, unless it finds clear and compelling reasons not to order such restitution. Restitution may be monetary or nonmonetary restitution. The court shall make the payment of restitution a condition of probation.
Once the Court has ordered restitution, the payment of restitution becomes part of the plea or Court order and failure to pay can result in a violation. If restitution is ordered as a condition of probation or parole, restitution must be paid in full before probation or parole can be terminated. Restitution can be ordered for a specific period but must be complete no later than the end of the term of probation or parole. If no probation is ordered, the Court will retain jurisdiction to impose restitution up to 5 years after the term of imprisonment has been satisfied or 5 years after the date of sentencing. The Court will retain jurisdiction to enforce restitution payments for up to 5 years for a misdemeanor case.
How much restitution will I have to pay?
Restitution is not a fine imposed by the Court, it is designed to compensate a victim for loss. This means that restitution can be very subjective. Restitution can be divided in two ways: (1) physical injury to a victim; or (2) reimbursement to a victim for loss of property.
Common forms of restitution for Physical Injury
- Reimbursement for medical, psychiatric, and psychological care
- Reimbursement for required nonmedical treatment
- Reimbursement for physical, occupational therapy, and rehabilitation
- Reimbursement for income loss related to the offense
- Where death is involved, reimbursement for funeral expenses and related services
Common forms of restitution where there has been no Physical Injury
- Reimbursement for property loss
- Reimbursement for income loss
The victim of a theft crime must make a claim for restitution. This is usually done by the victim telling the State what losses they have suffered. If the victim has not provided accurate receipts and documentation to support their claim, we will challenge their request for restitution. Victims do not have the liberty to claim an arbitrary number or seek large sums of money simply because they have been the victim of a theft. If the victim in your case is demanding payment and will not agree to a lower amount, restitution will be decided by a judge at a hearing.
The judge will consider several factors in deciding an amount for restitution. Some of those factors include:
- Circumstances and gravity of the offense
- Victim’s losses from the theft
- Defendant’s gains from the theft
- Burden imposed financially on the victim or victims
- Defendant’s resources and capacity to pay
Remember, restitution is decided subjectively. This means the judge can make their “best guess” to make the victim whole and punish the defendant. It is imperative that you have a talented theft defense team in your corner. The final restitution determination will become a court order. Do not find yourself in a position where restitution has been ordered and you are unable to comply.
Restitution as leverage to resolve a complex case
Many theft cases revolve around one thing: money. When money is the driving force behind a victim’s desire for revenge, fighting a theft charge not only becomes a fight for freedom but also a financial mine field. In a case where money is the driving force, an aggressive defense team can use restitution to leverage a favorable result. We have defended numerous clients charged with felony theft where the victim wanted restitution. In those cases, payment of restitution was used to ensure our client did not receive a felony conviction. Do not navigate a theft case without first contacting an experienced defense team.
Why do I need an Okaloosa County Criminal Defense Attorney?
The answer is simple, if you have arrested for a theft crime, you need an attorney that knows how to protect your record. Theft is considered a crime of dishonesty which means that a conviction could cost you job opportunities, career advancement or financial freedom.
When you are ready to get the help you need with an Okaloosa County theft charge, call Flaherty & Merrifield at (850) 243-6097 for a free, confidential case review.