Under Florida law, people can be charged with multiple distinct crimes stemming from a single criminal incident. They cannot be convicted of the same offense more than once, however, as it violates double jeopardy. While in some cases, it is clear that a conviction violates a defendant’s double jeopardy rights, in others, it is less evident. Recently, a Florida court issued an opinion in a car theft case in which it discussed the process of determining whether a conviction violates double jeopardy. If you are accused of a theft offense, it is smart to consult a Tampa theft crime defense attorney to discuss your possible defenses.
Facts of the Case
It is alleged that the defendant agreed to repair a car for his friend and subsequently borrowed tools from his friend’s sister. He drove off with the car and the tools and did not return the car for a week; he never returned the tools. The state charged him with grand theft of a car and theft of tools. He was found guilty of both crimes, after which he appealed.
Determining if a Conviction Violates Double Jeopardy
On appeal, the defendant argued that his convictions violated double jeopardy. The court disagreed and denied his appeal. In doing so, it explained that double jeopardy bars a person from being prosecuted, convicted, or punished for the same crime more than once. In cases of theft convictions where the crimes are merely different degrees of the core offense of theft, multiple convictions arising out of the same core offense violate double jeopardy.
The court noted that the issue of double jeopardy is complicated in car theft cases where items within a car are also taken. Generally, in such cases, the courts will find that if the State demonstrates an adequate separation in time, place, and circumstances between the alleged theft offenses, convictions for both crimes will not violate double jeopardy. The prohibition against double jeopardy does not apply when a defendant commits distinct criminal acts, however.
In the subject case, the court found that the defendant deprived separate victims of separate property. Specifically, the theft of the car and the theft of the tools involved separate circumstances and intent. The court elaborated that the defendant obtained the tools before taking the car and only left with the car after returning to the friend’s home. The defendant also manifested different intentions with respect to the property by returning the car but never returning the tools. Therefore, s the thefts occurred under different circumstances and with different intent, the defendant could be punished for both offenses without violating double jeopardy.
Speak to a Knowledgeable Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney Today
Theft crimes can result in significant sentences, but a person cannot be punished more than once for a single offense. If you are charged with a theft offense, it is wise to speak to an attorney about your options. The knowledgeable Tampa criminal defense lawyers of Hanlon Law can inform you of your rights and aid you in pursuing a just outcome. You can reach Hanlon Law by using the form online or by calling us at 813-228-7095 to set up a conference.