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Theft and Burglary Charges Increase During States of Emergency

By Hager & Schwartz, P.A.

May 25, 2020

The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has been making its way across the nation, affecting thousands of lives. To slow the spread and protect residents of Florida and citizens of the U.S., health agency and government officials have issued and enacted several guidelines and measures. On March 9, 2020, Governor DeSantis declared a state of emergency.

The governor’s declaration helps ensure that resources are adequately expended to respond to the disease, but it also has significant implications on criminal justice matters. During states of emergencies, the level of charges for certain offenses, like burglary and theft, is increased. Thus, if a person is convicted of one of these crimes, they could be sentenced to a much longer prison sentence and higher fine than they would have been had the offense been committed during normal times.

The increase in charges for burglary and theft are as follows:

  • Burglary: This offense occurs when a person enters or remains on a dwelling, structure, or conveyance when permission to do so has been revoked and they intend to commit an offense while there.

Under ordinary circumstances, if the alleged offender does not commit an assault or battery during the burglary nor are or become armed with a weapon, they could be charged with a second-degree felony. During a state of emergency, the same conduct becomes a first-degree felony. Upon a conviction, the maximum term of imprisonment is 30 years, which is double the 15-year maximum that can be imposed under normal circumstances.

If the alleged offender does not commit an assault or battery and does not have or become armed with a weapon and the structure or conveyance is unoccupied at the time of the offense, burglary is charged as a third-degree felony. Under normal circumstances, a conviction may result in a prison term of up to 5 years. However, during a state of emergency, the offense increases to a second-degree felony. The maximum term of imprisonment triples – to 15 years. Additionally, the maximum fine doubles, going from $5,000 to $10,000.

  • Theft: This offense is committed when a person takes or uses another’s property without consent and with the intent to temporarily or permanently deprive the owner of the item.

Typically, if the property’s value is $20,000 or more and under $100,000, the offense is a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. But during a state of emergency, the level of charge increases to a first-degree felony, and the maximum prison term shoots up to 30 years.

If the property taken was valued at $750 or more, under ordinary circumstances, the alleged offender could be charged with a third-degree felony. A conviction may result in imprisonment for no more than 5 years and a fine not to exceed $5,000. But, during a state of emergency, the offense increases to a second-degree felony, which carries a prison term of up to 15 years, and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

If you’re facing criminal charges in Miami, allow our lawyers at Hager & Schwartz, P.A. to provide the aggressive defense you need. Call us at (305) 330-1360 or contact us online today.