Dealing in stolen property is a very common crime in Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Palm Beach. Dealing in stolen property is most commonly prosecuted when someone illegally pawns stolen goods. However, dealing in stolen property charges can be filed in a variety other cases as well, such as when someone sells stolen property online. Typically, dealing in stolen property charges are prosecuted for grand theft, petit theft, burglary, and other theft offenses. As a criminal attorney, I encounter these cases all the time.
What Am I Facing for Dealing in Stolen Property?
Unlike petit theft and grand theft, Dealing in Stolen Property does not have different degrees. It is a second degree felony and only a second degree felony – regardless of the property value.
Dealing in stolen property is punishable by up to 15 years in prison or 15 years probation, per count, because it is a second degree felony.
HOWEVER, most cases are able to be resolved to probation, especially when the defendant suffers from a mental health problem or a substance abuse problem.
Prosecutor’s Burden in Dealing in Stolen Property Cases
The first step in defending against any dealing in stolen property case is to understand the prosecutor’s burden of proof. To prove the crime of dealing in stolen property, prosecutors must prove the following, beyond a reasonable doubt, pursuant toFlorida Statute §812.019:
That the defendant trafficked in, or endeavored to traffic in, property that he/she knew or should have known was stolen.
Pursuant to Florida Statute §812.012, the term “traffic” refers to the following:
(a) Selling, transferring, distributing, dispensing, or otherwise disposing of property.
(b) Buying, receiving, possessing, obtaining control of, or using property with the intent to sell, transfer, distribute, dispense, or otherwise dispose of such property.
While dealing in stolen property is a second degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison, it is a first degree felony for a person to initiate, organize, plan, finance, direct, manage, or supervise the theft of property and traffics in such stolen property. For example, if you pay someone to steal jewelry and then pawn the jewelry, you are guilty of a first degree felony, whereas the act of pawning the jewelry by itself would have only been a second degree felony.
A non-capital first degree felony is punishable by up to 30 years in prison or 30 probation, per count.
How do you defend against Dealing in Stolen Property charges?
Dealing in stolen property is so common in Florida that a fingerprint is required every time someone pawns an object. The items are then logged into a database that is accessible by police and can be searched when someone is suspected of dealing in stolen property or a person reports being the victim of a theft.
To prove you are guilty of dealing in stolen property, prosecutors essentially do two things. First, they prove the item in question was owned by someone else and that it was stolen from them or pawned without their permission. Second, prosecutors have to prove you were the person who pawned the items. This is done by comparing fingerprints and signatures on the pawn shop paperwork. Additionally, pawn shops may provide police with surveillance camera videos or pawn shop employees may identify you as the person who sold the item to them.
As simple as this may seem, this is where your best defense comes in.
You see, to prove this type of case, a prosecutor will need to bring in the true owner of the item to testify that he/she did not give permission to pawn the goods. In many cases, such people simply cannot be located, or are unwilling to come forward, or lose interest in the case after it has been delayed for many months. This is especially true when the victim gets their property back and has no reason to remain involved in the dealing in stolen property case in court.
People are only interested when they think they are going to get paid.
Additionally, if the item is a generic good that lacks any unique identifying features, it may be difficult to prove that the item was in fact stolen. It could merely be an identical, but different item to the one that was stolen. While a defense predicated on a stupid coincidence rarely works, they do work when there is no other reason to assume one person would steal an object from another.
Also, fingerprints are not an exact science. They are not as good as DNA or clear surveillance video. Fingerprints can be of poor quality because they were not taken properly, they can get smudged, and sometimes, they are not properly preserved. As a result, a fingerprint analyst may have difficulty making a match. Without a reliable match, it will be hard to prove you were the person who pawned the goods in question.
You would be surprised how often this occurs.
Unless prosecutors can tie together the necessary elements of dealing in stolen property, they will not be able to win at trial.
If an investigation by your criminal attorney determines that a victim is available and the fingerprints are a match, then you may be out of luck. However, if either element is missing, we may be able to get your dealing in stolen property case DISMISSED.
If this is not the case, a criminal attorney is usually able to negotiate a plea bargain to probation, especially if the defendant has a mental health problem or suffers from drug addiction and is willing to enter treatment.
If you have been arrested and charged with dealing in stolen property contact us today for a free initial consultation. Depending on the facts of your case, you may benefit from a number of very effective defense strategies.