Laws are constantly changing. These changes could have a lasting effect on your case, your livelihood, your family and your liberty. If you have a been accused of a crime, make sure you hire the best Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney for you and your loved ones. Choosing the best criminal defense lawyer for your situation is a big decision. Experience and knowledge of the current laws in place are just a few of several factors you should consider when hiring a Broward County criminal defense law firm such as the Law Office of Matthew Glassman, P.A.
I recently handled an interesting case where my argument was twofold. First, the argument was that my client did not steal anything. Second, even if everything the prosecution accused him of was true, the case should have been a misdemeanor and not a felony based on the amount stolen.
Prior to trial, I explained to the State Attorney that I believed the information (Charging Document) in the case that filed it as a Grand Theft was incorrect. I argued to them that the statute governing a grand theft changed in 2019. The event of my case was from 2018, and an entirely different statute was in effect during that time, however the correct course of action was to apply the new statute retroactively. Sounds boring right? But here is the real issue.
The pandemic has caused a ginormous backlog with court cases. Cases are starting to grow long in the tooth and currently there aren’t enough prosecutors or jurors to try everything.
There are lots of issues when cases tend to get old. Witnesses often are no longer available. Sometimes a case can get stronger or weaker over time. Oftentimes, the accused out on bond gets re-arrested for new charges further complicating their legal situation.
But sometimes, much in the situation I detailed above, the Laws governing the charges actually change. The change, depending on when it occurred and how it is supposed to be applied, can have an adverse effect or a positive effect on the outcome of your case.
Oftentimes, new laws are not applied retroactively. This means, to use my example above, a 2018 case will be bound by the law that is in effect back in 2018 not whatever new law that gets passed subsequent to 2018.
Let’s talk a little theft. First, let me start off by stating the obvious: Stealing is bad.
But not all thefts are created equal. Florida has levels to theft charges. The level of the offense is determined by the amount of stuff stolen. The higher the dollar value the more serious the crime.
At the misdemeanor level there are two types of petit thefts: first degree and second degree. A first-degree petit theft is a theft for an amount, over $100 but under $750, and is punishable by up to one year in jail, or 12 months of probation, and a $1000 fine. A second-degree petit theft is a theft for an amount under $100 and is punishable by up to 60 days in jail, or 6 months of probation, and a $500 fine.
To learn more about grand thefts and the dollar thresholds and penalties associated with it click here.
Without further ado let’s take a look under the hood at what Dean v. State has to offer.
Prior to the new grand theft coming into effect Dean was accused of theft totaling $400. At the time he was accused, a grand theft in the State of Florida had a minimum threshold of $300. Subsequent to his case being filed but before he was actually sentenced the grand theft statute in Florida changed and the new threshold started at $750. The law change made it a little more difficult to pick up a grand theft case by increasing the dollar threshold. Under the old law, a stolen television that has a market value of $500 would be considered a felony grand theft. Under the new law, that same theft of a television would now be considered a petit theft. So, what was the appropriate law (older one or newer one) that should apply to Dean’s case?
The Appeals Court first looked at the Florida Constitution for an answer. The Court noted that Article X, section 9 of the Florida Constitution was amended to read, “repeal if a criminal statute shall not affect prosecution for any crime committed before such a repeal.” This, commonly referred to as the “savings clause.” In layman’s terms it means the law in effect at the time the crime was committed is the law that gets applied and that the new statute would not invalidate the older statute. So, if that applied in our case, the defendant would NOT get the benefit of the new Statute even though he had not been sentenced yet. The Court continued to dig and found Florida Statute 775.022. Florida Statute 777.022, in particular subsection 4 became a game changer. Subsection 4 reads “If a penalty, forfeiture, or punishment for a criminal statute is reduced by a reenactment or an amendment of a criminal statute, the penalty, forfeiture, or punishment, if not already imposed, must be imposed according to the Statute as amended.”
The new grand theft law applies retroactively to cases that are still currently pending and have not been sentenced. Meaning, if you have an older grand theft case for an amount over $300 but LESS than $750 than your correct charge should now be a petit theft. That is great news for those cases that qualify. The difference between having a felony and a misdemeanor on your record could be monumental. Some employers will not hire a person who has a felony on their record. In addition, if you hold a professional license in certain fields, a felony could cause you a lot of headaches including a suspension or revocation of your business license.
Whether your case has a complex legal issue, or you are looking to hire the best criminal defense lawyer to handle your case, please make sure you do your homework and hire the best criminal defense attorney for you and your loved ones. The Law office of Matthew Glassman P.A. has over 160 5-star google reviews and is constantly staying abreast of law changes that can have an effect on your case. If you are looking to hire an experienced Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyer then contact our office for assistance now.