We love sports and the athletes who play for our favorite teams. We cheer for them from the sidelines. We admire them. And because they are in the public eye, we often expect more from them. So it’s no surprise when they fall, it’s breaking news.
Recently, Tiger Woods was arrested on suspicion of DUI here in South Florida. Just prior to that, one of our own – Matt Elam, who went to Dwyer High School and then went on to play football for the University of Florida and the Baltimore Ravens – was arrested for larceny grand theft and battery after a conflict with his girlfriend.
Just before 4 a.m. on Monday, May 22, Delray Beach Police were called to Elam’s girlfriend’s house for a possible assault. His girlfriend told police that Elam arrived at her house to get his car. Then they got into an argument that resulted in the two on the ground fighting over a cellphone. When Elam got possession of the phone, he left.
His side of the story is that he asked his girlfriend for money, but when she wouldn’t give it to him, he took the cellphone instead. A cellphone he claims he bought for her. He then said that after he took her phone, she went into his car and took his phone, which is when he left.
The details of this case will be crucial to Elam’s defense, especially if he did pay for the cellphone. Regardless of how this particular case turns out, though, theft charges should always be taken seriously because, if convicted, you could receive jail time, expensive fines, and be saddled with a criminal record.
Understanding Theft Laws in Florida
In Florida, we have two types of theft: grand theft and petit theft. The difference between the two comes down to the value of the stolen property in question. If the property is worth less than $300, then that falls under petit theft, which is a misdemeanor crime. If the property is worth more than $300, it turns into grand theft, which is a felony. The more the property is worth, the more serious the crime and penalties.
Theft is formally defined in the Florida statutes as knowingly obtaining or using someone else’s property with the intent to, either temporarily or permanently, deprive that person of a right or benefit to the property or appropriate the property for themselves.
In simple terms? If you take someone else’s property, even if it’s just for a short period of time, you are committing theft.
The punishment for petit theft can have a maximum one-year jail term and a fine of up to $1,000 depending on the property’s value. Grand theft, on the other hand, can have a 5- to 30-year jail term and a $5,000 to $10,000 fine.
Proving Theft Charges
In order for someone to be convicted on theft charges, the State has to prove that the defendant had the intention to deprive the other person of their property. If there was no intent to deprive, then a theft wasn’t committed.
If the defendant believes he has some sort of ownership of the property – as with Elam claiming he paid for the cellphone – then he wouldn’t be depriving someone else of that property, and he wouldn’t be committing theft.
A knowledgeable Florida theft attorney will be able to parse out the facts of your case to choose the best defense to get those charges reduced, dropped, or dismissed. So if you’re currently facing theft charges, reach out to an attorney today to start fighting back.
About the Author:
Attorney David W. Olson is the founder of the Law Offices of David W. Olson in West Palm Beach. He has been practicing criminal law and successfully representing clients throughout the State of Florida for over 30 years. Throughout his legal career, Mr. Olson has been honored numerous times for both his dedication and excellence in criminal law. He proudly holds the Martindale-Hubbell AV Rating, as well as being recognized as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer (2013), in the Nation’s Top One Percent of attorneys (2015), and as a 10 Best Member of the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys (2015). He has even received commendations from members of congress and other public officials for the fantastic work that he’s done. Mr. Olson graduated from the University of Florida’s Fredric G. Levin College of Law in 1981 and has been a member of the Florida Bar since 1983.