Articles Posted in Theft Crimes

The COVID-19 pandemic has altered many aspects of criminal cases. For example, many criminal trials were delayed or conducted remotely, and some prisoners were able to obtain compassionate release due to the risk of contracting the coronavirus. As discussed in a recent Florida opinion issued in a theft case, though, COVID-19, in and of itself, is not a sufficient reason to grant a downward departure sentence. If you are accused of a theft offense, it is prudent to meet with a trusted Sarasota theft crime defense attorney to assess your options.

The Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant was charged with felony petit theft for taking sunglasses from a store without paying. He failed to appear at a hearing, and the charges against him were amended to include a charge for failure to appear. He was arrested and spent ten months in jail. At a hearing for pretrial release, his attorney requested the lowest permitted sentence of fifty-five months in prison. The State rejected the offer, citing his extensive criminal history.

Reportedly, the trial court asked the state to confirm the lowest permissible sentence, then proposed that if the defendant pled guilty, it would issue a downward departure sentence due to COVID-19. The state objected, but the court sentenced the defendant to two years of probation. The state appealed.

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When people suffer personal tragedies, their friends and families will often set up fundraisers to help them deal with the financial ramifications of their losses. What starts as a kind-hearted gesture may lead to criminal charges, though, if the funds collected are not properly disbursed. While numerous charges could potentially arise out of the mishandling of charitable donations, a person cannot be convicted multiple times for the same offense. This was demonstrated in a recent Florida ruling in which the court agreed with the defendant’s assertion that her convictions for fraud and organized scheme to defraud violated her right against double jeopardy.  If you are charged with a fraud offense, it is in your best interest to meet with a skillful Sarasota criminal defense attorney to assess your potential defenses.

The Facts of the Case

Allegedly, the defendant and her husband were struggling financially. Her husband was a firefighter, and after two other firefighters were killed and a third firefighter’s daughter died, the defendant organized a benefit to raise money for the three families. It is estimated that between tickets sold at the door and prior to the benefit, the defendant gathered in excess of $28,000 dollars.

Reportedly,  cash donations were made during the benefit as well. The bulk of the money was never given to the families, however. Eventually, the police investigated the incident and charged the defendant with multiple crimes, including grand theft and an organized scheme to defraud. A jury convicted her, after which she appealed.

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In many instances in which a criminal defendant is convicted of a crime, the court will not only sentence the person to jail time or probation but will also order him or her to pay restitution costs. A court may not order restitution without basis, however. Rather, as discussed in a recent Florida theft case, certain factors must be present for a restitution award to be valid. If you are accused of committing a theft crime, it is smart to consult a skillful Sarasota theft crime defense attorney to evaluate your rights.

The Alleged Crime and Restitution Award

It is reported that the defendant was charged with three counts of dealing in stolen property, giving a pawn shop owner false verification of ownership, and other crimes. He entered a guilty plea to all charges. Following his sentencing, he challenged an award of restitution for a stolen diamond bracelet, arguing that as he was not charged with stealing the bracelet and the item was not within the original charge of dealing in stolen property, his guilty plea did not constitute an agreement to pay for it. Upon review, the appellate court affirmed the award.

Grounds for Awarding Restitution Under Florida Law

Under Florida law, if a defendant challenges a restitution award, the court must assess whether the damage or loss the defendant has been ordered to pay for is both causally related to and bears a substantial relationship to the crime. In order for a restitution award to be causally connected to a crime, it must arise out of the crime for which the defendant was actually charged. Additionally, if a defendant agrees to pay restitution as part of a plea agreement, his agreement is limited to restitution for the charged crime, as reflected by the information or the factual basis for the plea that was set forth by the State when the plea was entered.

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