In Florida criminal cases, details matter. Sometimes, seemingly small details may make a big difference. That’s why you need to be sure you have legal representation from a skilled Tampa Bay criminal defense attorney. A skilled advocate can spot all those details, great and small, and make sure that you are protected from the harmful ones to the maximum extent possible, and that you are using all of the beneficial ones to your maximum advantage.
As an example, we can look at this recent case from the Keys. K.K. was arrested and charged in the break-in of a home in Islamorada. Among the items stolen from the home were four Rolex watches and “rare, historic jewelry from Tibet.”
At trial, K.K. faced a charge of grand theft over $20,000. That’s a very serious charge. Grand theft of more than $20,000 is a second-degree felony, punishable by imprisonment of up to 15 years and a $10,000 fine, and K.K. was convicted of that crime.
K.K., however, was able to get that grand theft conviction overturned on appeal. This successful appeal highlights several important details worth knowing if you are facing theft charges. For one thing, Florida law has some very clear rules about how the state may (or may not) go about establishing that the value of the items stolen exceeded $20,000. In K.K.’s case, an expert witness testified about the insurance replacement cost value of the stolen items.
The law dictates specific rules for proving the stolen items’ value
As a layperson, you probably wouldn’t notice anything amiss in that. But there’s an important detail in there, and K.K.’s legal team was able to use that detail advantageously in his appeal. The law says that the prosecution, in order to prove grand theft, generally must demonstrate that the “market value of the property at the time and place of the offense” was more than $20,000. Note the difference there – market value, not insurance replacement value.
There is an exception that allows a Florida prosecutor to use insurance replacement cost value, but that only comes up when the items’ market value “could not be satisfactorily ascertained” and where the state has also proven that the market value couldn’t be ascertained. In K.K.’s case, the prosecution had no evidence that it was impossible to determine the market value of the stolen items, so the law didn’t allow for the state to prove the items’ value in the way it did.
There was another detail that reflected a flaw in the state’s case. Florida law requires the state to put on evidence of the stolen items’ depreciation. Back in 1974, the Florida Supreme Court set up a test for establishing the cost minus depreciation of a stolen item, and that test has been in place ever since, but it was not followed in K.K.’s case.
Because the state didn’t have qualifying evidence of market value and didn’t address depreciation properly, the state didn’t have the minimum proof required by law to support a grant theft conviction. K.K. was entitled to have his theft conviction reduced to second-degree petit theft. That difference is a big deal. K.K. was originally facing a second-degree felony charge. Second-degree petit theft, on the other hand, is a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by no more than 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.
Whether you’ve been charged with grand theft or another crime, you need a skilled legal team with an eye for the important details working for you. Count on the experienced Tampa Bay criminal defense attorneys at Blake & Dorsten P.A. to provide you with the zealous and detail-oriented advocacy you deserve. Call us today at (727) 286-6141 to schedule your FREE initial consultation.