The health and safety of Floridians is on everyone’s minds in the Sunshine State amid the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak. In order to fight the epidemic and allow public health agencies to better provide services to the public, Florida Gov. Ron Desantis has declared a state of emergency. This will allow organizations to act faster when it comes to providing health services for the public.
But while the state of emergency allows health officials to coordinate better, it also triggers harsher penalties for burglary and theft charges.
Under Florida law, charges involving theft are enhanced if the state, county or city is under a state of emergency. Crimes that may have been misdemeanors can be upgraded to felonies. A second-degree felony can be upgraded to a first-degree felony for example, leading to a likely increase of prison time, fines and other potential penalties.
West Palm Beach Attorney for Enhanced Penalties, COVID-19
If you are facing enhanced penalties because you were charged with theft or burglary during the state of emergency, the dedicated team at Meltzer & Bell P.A. can represent you.
As a former prosecutor and former public defender, we came together as a team to bring our experience to those facing criminal accusations in Palm Beach County courts. Have a skilled West Palm Beach theft and property crime defense lawyer on your side.
Call us today at (561) 557-8686 to set up a free consultation. We are available 24 hours per day, seven days per week. We represent clients in Delray Beach, Boynton Beach, Boca Raton, Belle Glade, Palm Beach Gardens, Juno Beach, Jupiter, Royal Palm Beach, Wellington and anywhere else who are charged in a Palm Beach County court.
What Does it Mean to Have Enhanced Penalties for Burglary and Theft During a State of Emergency?
If you are charged with theft or burglary during a state of emergency, you could be facing higher-level misdemeanors. Knowingly taking someone’s property is already a serious crime in Florida.
In order for the charges to be enhanced, prosecutors must be able to show the suspect or suspects knew Florida was under a state of emergency. Given the widespread coverage of the coronavirus, judges and juries may have a hard time believing suspects were not aware of Florida’s state of emergency status.
Typically, the charge is enhanced by one level during a state of emergency. What was a misdemeanor can become a third-degree felony, or a charge that is typically a third-degree felony becomes a second-degree felony.
Burglary and theft charges involving stolen items that are valued from $5,000 to $10,000 are upgraded to second-degree felonies. Depending on the circumstances, charges for stolen items valued up to $20,000 can also result in second-degree felonies.
If the item or items in question that are valued from $100 to $750, the accused can be charged with a third-degree felony.
Outside of a state of emergency, stolen property valued at $100,000 or more is considered grand theft, which can result in a first-degree felony.
What Penalties Will I Face if I’m Charged With Enhanced Penalties?
Under Florida law, “grand theft” is defined as any intentional or unlawful taking of property that is valued at $300 or more.
First-degree felonies for grand theft can result in up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. The burglary charge is considered grand theft if a motor vehicle was used in the getaway or was used as part of the crime. If the property stolen was cargo valued at $50,000 or more and entered the stream of interstate or intrastate commerce from the shipping loading platform to the consignee’s receiving dock, the crime can be charged as grand theft and a first-degree felony.
A second-degree felony for grand theft is punishable by up to 15 years in prison, and a fine of up to $10,000. A third-degree felony is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. The fine increases to $10,000 if you stole an animal from a certified facility.
Potential Defenses for Burglary Crimes During a State of Emergency
Every punishment should fit the crime. Police could use the state of emergency to seek enhanced charges, even if they’re not warranted. Someone accused of stealing items that are valued at a couple of hundred dollars should not be charged as if he or she stole items worth thousands of dollars.
When seeking enhanced charges, the prosecutors’ arguments and the evidence used against the accused should be scrutinized heavily.
The attorneys at Meltzer & Bell P.A. will challenge the value of the suspected stolen items. The monetary value may be open to interpretation. It is possible prosecutors can seek the highest projected monetary value in order to enhance the charges.
Finding a Property Criminal Defense Attorney for Enhanced Penalties in Palm Beach County
Being charged with burglary or theft in Florida under normal circumstances can already be devastating. Facing these charges under a state of emergency can be even harder. The dedicated team at Meltzer & Bell, P.A. will fight for you and against unnecessary enhanced charges. You will always have an experienced partner on your case. It will never be handed down to a less-experienced associate.
Call (561) 557-8686 today to talk to us about your Palm Beach County charges. We will set up your consultation free and discuss your charges in further detail. We protect people throughout the greater Palm Beach County area including Palm Beach, West Palm Beach and Boca Raton.