Interviewer: What is the difference between theft by deception and theft by extortion?
Randy Berman: Extortion is making a threat against someone for his or her safety or threat of bodily harm in return for being given money. You can also extort by threatening to go public with some personal information that you don’t want the public at large to know about. That is another manner of extortion, but extortion is getting money from someone through some sort of threat.
Interviewer: Is it like blackmail in a way?
Randy Berman: It is blackmail. That is another term of the art that is synonymous with extortion.
Selling a Hot Item To a Pawn Shop Can Result in Possession of Stolen Property Charges Against the Person Who Pawned It
Interviewer: What about theft of stolen property or theft of lost property? If someone bought a laptop or a cell phone or I phone from a second or 3rd party and it was stolen. Could that be considered lost property?
Randy Berman: It is not called theft of lost property, it is possession of stolen property. Typically the scenario where that comes into play is where someone reports a theft of an item and shortly after the theft; the police find the item generally at a pawn shop. To pawn something you have to swear out an oath that you are the owner or rightful holder of the property that you are pawning. You have to sign it and in Florida you have to give a fingerprint on the document so when the police are scouring through the pawn records and they come upon a hit for something that was recently reported stolen.
The way they do that is they get the serial number of the item along with description of the item and they can easily see if the item has come in to a pawn shop. Then they can see who actually pawned it, how soon after the theft the pawning occurred and if it’s the same day or the next day, there is an inference that the person that pawned it stole it. It is a crime to knowingly distribute stolen property and that’s also known as fencing but there are arguments that you can come in to property that is stolen not knowing it was stolen and you wouldn’t be guilty of dealing in stolen property if you can prove that you had no reason to know.
The Courts Use a Simple Test to Determine Whether or Not a Person Knowingly Purchased Stolen Property
The courts use a simple test to determine whether or not you should have known. If someone sold you a 60 inch flat screen TV for 10 dollars on the street, it is not reasonable to believe that it was the legitimate owner who sold it to you and you can’t stand on that defense of not knowing. You should have known, but if that person sold it to you for a reasonable price then it is a good argument to say I did not realize this was stolen. I paid a legitimate price for this item and then I pawned it and that would hold up as far as a defense if you paid a legitimate price.
The Degree of Severity for Theft of Services Charges Depends on the Amount in Question
Interviewer: How does theft of services fit in to the equation?
Randy Berman: It is dealt with the same way any theft is dealt with; meaning the amount of the theft, whether it is for services or for a product dictates how severe the penalties might be. In Florida, if you steal an item or services worth more than $300, you are into the felony category of theft.
Common Examples for Theft of Services Charges in Florida
Interviewer: What are some examples of theft of services?
Randy Berman: Defrauding an innkeeper, people that check into a motel and then leave without paying. If you tap into the cable and you are not paying for it and they are able to determine that you have done that. Whatever their normal charge for the amount of the time that you were using the service without paying would be the determining factor in what level of theft you would be charged with.
Borrowing Cable from a Neighbor Still Incurs a Loss to the Cable Company
Interviewer: If someone were to steal cable, rather than stealing, borrowing cable from a neighbor. Would that still be considered stealing?
Randy Berman: You’re not stealing from the neighbor because the neighbor is still getting it, but you are stealing from the cable company who’s entitled to their fee for the service that you’re getting around and not paying for.