A Florida Man Escapes Dealing in Stolen Property Charge Because He Didn’t Commit All of the Elements of the Crime

Legal News GavelIf you or a loved one are facing criminal charges, there may be multiple different methods for defending against those accusations. One type of defense is to prove that you didn’t do it, or at least to cast doubt on the state’s case that you did do it. Another type of defense is persuading the court that, whatever you did or did not do, your actions could not constitute the crime that the state has charged you with committing. Whichever type of defense you mount, it helps to have a detailed knowledge of the law, which means it pays to have a knowledgeable Florida theft crime attorney on your side.

One case in which the defendant succeeded based upon the latter of the two types of defenses discussed above was the case of Pedro from Hendry County. Pedro offered to sell a man “discount” farm supplies. What Pedro didn’t know was that his would-be buyer was cooperating with the Hendry County Sheriff’s Office. Thus, when Pedro made his offer to the man, the man gave Pedro’s name to law enforcement, and they set up a controlled sale of stolen herbicide between the man and Pedro. Pedro made the purchase, and that sale got Pedro arrested for dealing in stolen property.

At his trial, the state brought forward evidence that Pedro bought the herbicide and that he planned to use it on his farm. The prosecution specifically argued that Pedro made a phone call to trigger the start of the chain of events, which included the acquisition of the herbicide, and that Pedro bought the herbicide with the intent to use it.

Pedro argued that the trial judge should order a dismissal because the state hadn’t proved all of the elements of a dealing in stolen property crime under Section 812.019 of the Florida Statutes. The judge refused Pedro’s request and sent the case to the jury. The jury convicted Pedro.

On appeal, the appellate court sided with Pedro. He was correct that, even if the jury believed everything the state had put forward, the state’s evidence still didn’t show that Pedro had committed the crime of dealing in stolen property. The statute that prohibits dealing in stolen property, Section 812.019, lists two elements of the crime:  one, that the defendant “initiated, organized, planned, financed, directed, managed, or supervised” the theft of the property and, two, that he “trafficked” in the stolen goods. In Florida, trafficking means that you sold, transferred, distributed, dispensed, or otherwise disposed of property, or that you acquired it for the purpose of doing one of those things.

In other words, the statute doesn’t apply to someone who purchases stolen property for the purpose of keeping it for his personal use. If proven, that’s a different crime under a different statute. The Section 812.019 crime of dealing in stolen goods, the court explained, existed only to stop “the criminal network of thieves and fences who knowingly redistribute stolen property.” Pedro, however, was not fencing the herbicide, nor had he stolen it to redistribute it. He was buying it with the intent of keeping it. Under Florida law, that can’t be the crime of dealing in stolen property, so Pedro was entitled to an acquittal.

In any criminal defense situation, a careful knowledge of the details of the law can provide substantial benefits. You need an experienced attorney who possesses that detailed knowledge. The knowledgeable Tampa Bay theft crime attorneys at Blake & Dorsten, P.A. have been providing their clients with vigorous criminal defense counsel for many years. Our experienced attorneys are ready to discuss your case with you. Call us today at (727) 286-6141 to schedule your free initial consultation and get the answers and the reliable assistance you need.

More blog posts:

Absence of Price Tags or Other Credible Evidence Helps Florida Defendant Win Petit Theft Conviction Appeal, Tampa Bay Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, July 17, 2017

Florida man steals 4 million pounds of oranges, Tampa Bay Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, Oct. 1, 2015

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