Common Misconceptions Regarding Theft Charges In Florida

Interviewer: What are some of the biggest misconceptions about being charged with a theft?

Randy Berman: That depends on the circumstances under which they are caught. So for example the retail theft case, where the security guard waits till you pass the register with the unpaid item and has you on video tape. Your chances of defending it are very slim unless you have a good faith explanation as to why you totally forgot about that item and had no intention of leaving the store without paying for it. The person, who takes a stolen item and pawns it, has one more layer of potential defense because there is no proof that that person actually did take it. There are no finger prints of the scene where it was taken or no eye witnesses to show that that person was there at the time.

That person has a better chance on prevailing on the theft. That still does not get them off the hook for dealing in stolen property if the property that they pawned they got for pennies on the dollar. It depends on each factual situation as to whether someone thinks they are going to successful in their defense of their case or not. Each case is different so there is no general rule unless an experienced lawyer has to take a look at them for knowing what the elements of the crime are and what proofs are necessary to give an opinion about the likelihood of success or not.

Common Client Mistakes Detrimental to A Favorable Outcome in Their Theft Case

Interviewer: What would you say are some mistakes that people would make?

Randy Berman: Any admission is damning, it can be admitted against you obviously and divulging anything that suggests that you knew the property that you have is stolen is damning. Admissions against your interest are going to weaken your ability to effectively defend yourself if you choose to fight the charge.

The Timeframe of Application For Expunging a Theft Crime Depends on the Outcome of the Case

Interviewer: How long does someone have to wait to apply to get a theft charged expunged?

Randy Berman: it depends on the result. If there is a dismissal prior to going to trial, the state attorney just decides they are not going to pursue the case and dismisses it. Once a dismissal is filed, you can immediately start the process to expunge. If the state attorney does not dismiss the charge but offers a plea to probation and a withheld adjudication, then the process of sealing that record initially can begin once the probation is satisfactorily terminated. If you get probation for 2 years, you’ve got to wait 2 years and get a successful completion of your probation. It is at that point that you can go and start the process of sealing that record.

Diversion Programs Available For First Time Theft Offenders In Florida

Interviewer: Are there any diversion programs available for first time offenders?

Randy Berman: Yes. For retail theft, most jurisdictions have a first time offender program that allows you to avoid a conviction and get a dismissal by taking a theft abatement or retail theft class. Sometimes doing some community service hours and paying a fine and when those conditions are all met, the state attorney drops the case. That case, under those circumstances can allow for immediate work on an expungement. In more serious felony theft cases there is the ability to get what is called pretrial intervention but it is not the norm. It would require the defense attorney to convince the state attorney to agree to that disputation. Totally discretionary with the state attorney as opposed to the retail theft program but it is possible.

The Legal Process for the Handling of a Shoplifting Case in Florida

Interviewer: What is the process going to be like for retail or shoplifting case? What is the initial hearing going to be like and how many times would the person have to go to attend trial?

Randy Berman: Those are the easiest cases to resolve. Generally, you can get the diversion on your first appearance and that requires you to come back in 60 or 90 days showing proof of completion of the programs that were assigned to you. The more sophisticated the crime, the more detailed and more paper work is involved in the crime, the more hearings you are going to have and more time is going to be needed to prepare.