The crime of dealing in stolen property, sometimes referred to as fencing, is a felony offence is Florida. This charge often comes about when a friend or neighbor accuses someone of stealing their goods and then selling them. There are several valid defenses you can use if you are facing charges of dealing in stolen property cases. For help defending against your charges, call a defense attorney at Goldman Wetzel now: 727-828-3900.
How does Florida define “dealing in stolen property”?
Florida Statute § 812.019(1) states that the offense of dealing in stolen property occurs when “any person who traffics in, or endeavors to traffic in, property that he or she knows or should know was stolen.” In order for a court to find you guilty of dealing in stolen property, the prosecutor must prove that:
- The items in question were stolen.
- You knew (or should have known) that they were stolen.
- You trafficked the items, i.e., sold them. Note, if you kept the items for yourself, then it is not dealing in stolen property.
In some cases, the charges may elevate to initiating “trafficking in stolen property,” which essentially involves orchestrating a fencing operation. Fl. St. § 812.019(2) explains that “any person who initiates, organizes, plans, finances, directs, manages, or supervises the theft of property and traffics in such stolen property shall be guilty of” trafficking in stolen goods.
What are the penalties for dealing in stolen property in Florida?
Unlike many other fraud and theft crimes, the value of the property in question has no bearing on the penalties. Stealing and pawning a $10 CD can bring the same penalties as stealing and pawning a $10,000 diamond ring.
There are two levels of penalties for stolen property crimes in Florida, depending on the exact nature of the charges:
- Trafficking in stolen property: A second degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
- Initiating the trafficking of stolen property: A first degree felony, punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
However, the courts are at liberty to increase the penalties for habitual offenders. Fl. St. § 775.084 provides that if you have previously been convicted of dealing in or trafficking stolen property, your prison sentence might increase to 30 years or a life sentence, respectively.
What defenses can I use to fight dealing in stolen property charges?
If the goods you sold were not stolen, then you can use that fact as your defense. Maybe they were given to you as a gift or you found them. Likewise, if you never sold the property in question, but instead kept it for your personal use, then the prosecutor likely will have to drop the charges. You can also have your case dismissed if you can prove that your possession of the items was “patently reasonable.”
If your story is reasonable, then our attorney can fight to have your charges dropped entirely.
Call a theft crime defense lawyer at Goldman Wetzel to see how we can help your case. Call our office in Florida today at 727-828-3900.