How the State’s Inadequate Proof of Intent Got One Man an Acquittal in His Florida Grand Theft Case

When it comes to criminal law, there are many things that the law says that the state must prove before an accused person can be convicted. Regarding many crimes, the law requires proof of two essential elements, described in the Latin terms actus rea and mens rea. The first of those two means that you must have committed some type of overt act. The second means that you must have intended to commit that act. These elements, especially the intent one, can provide an opportunity for an accused person to mount a successful defense. However you choose to pursue your defense, it helps to have skilled Florida criminal defense counsel working for you.

A recent case from Miami, in which the defendant’s appeal was successful, shows the importance of intent. Carl, the defendant in this case, was a carpenter who did cabinetry work. One of Carl’s satisfied customers referred him to the customer’s aunt. Carl and the woman agreed to a deal, with the woman paying him $2,250 as a 50% deposit. The check was cashed the same day. Carl was supposed to complete the work in two weeks’ time. After several weeks, he stopped returning the woman’s calls. She eventually hired another carpenter to do her custom cabinetry work.

This might sound like the factual background of a civil lawsuit. The state, however, charged Carl criminally with third-degree grand theft and contracting without a license. The defendant asked the court to issue an order of acquittal in the case, but the judge denied that request. Carl was convicted and received a sentence of 60 months.

Carl appealed, and he was successful. The law says that, in order to get a conviction on grand theft, the state must prove that the accused person intended “to deprive the owner of property of its use or benefit” and that he intended to do so at the time that he took the property.

One of the keys to the state’s proof that Carl had the required level of intent, and had it when he took the money, was the homeowner’s testimony that Carl cashed the check the same day that she gave it to him. The homeowner, however, had no direct knowledge about that. She had received a phone call from the bank, but the bank employee’s statements to her were not admissible because they were hearsay. The prosecution had proof that the check had been cashed by someone on the day in question, but the homeowner did not personally know that Carl was the person who did so, and the state didn’t have any other evidence to show that it was Carl either. The proof only showed that someone cashed that check on that day but didn’t prove that it was Carl.

Without more admissible proof, the state’s case fell short of the legal requirement for proving the necessary level of intent for a grand theft conviction, the appeals court stated in ordering that the conviction be reversed and the case dismissed.

In any criminal defense situation, a careful understanding of every element of the crime charged can make all of the difference. You need an attorney with that type of detailed knowledge. The experienced Tampa Bay theft crime attorneys at Blake & Dorsten, P.A. have been providing their clients with skillful 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:

A Florida Man Escapes Dealing in Stolen Property Charge Because He Didn’t Commit All of the Elements of the Crime, Tampa Bay Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, Dec. 27, 2017

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

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