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Abandoning Stolen Property Can Be a Defense in a Robbery Case in Florida

In Florida, a person can be convicted of theft, which can be a felony or misdemeanor charge, depending on the value of the item stolen, if he/she takes the property of another with the intent to deprive that person of the property. The intent can be to permanently take the property or temporarily take the property. So, a defendant testifying that he/she intended to return the property is not necessarily a defense to a theft charge.

In Florida, a theft case can become a robbery case if the suspect used force either during the theft or after the theft when he/she was trying to get away. However, it would be possible for a person to commit a theft without force, abandon the property and then subsequent force would not be the basis for a robbery charge. A robbery charge is a felony and likely much more serious than a standard theft charge.

In a recent case near Jacksonville, Florida, the suspect stole some items from a department store. He was seen by store security and followed out of the store. The security officer chased the suspect, and the stolen items either fell out of the suspect’s jacket or were intentionally dropped. Thereafter, the officer caught the suspect who showed a gun to the officer and told him to back away. Even though the suspect did not use force or show the gun during the theft, he could still be charged with armed robbery for using the gun to get away with the theft. However, if he had abandoned the theft prior to showing the gun, the defendant could argue the two events were unrelated and a armed robbery charge was inappropriate.

In order to assert a valid abandonment defense, the defendant must establish that he took the property without any force, had completely abandoned the property before using any force and the victim was aware of such abandonment. If all that occurs and the defendant uses some force afterwards, perhaps while being chased by store security, the defendant can use that defense to a robbery charge if the state is claiming the subsequent force was related to the theft. Of course, if the defendant commits a new crime after abandoning the property, such as the threat or use of violence against the people chasing him, that could also be the basis for a new charge separate from the initial theft.