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Theft, Burglary and Robbery Are Not the Same Crime

The terms robbery, theft and burglary are sometimes used interchangeably in popular discourse, but they are distinct crimes under Florida state law, even though the lines between them aren’t always clear.

For example, taking merchandise from a publicly accessible space in a store is shoplifting, a form of theft. But taking merchandise from a portion of the store that is closed off to the public could be considered a burglary. And if the person uses any degree of force, such as resisting attempts to stop him, the crime could be charged as a robbery.

Theft is considered a petty crime, a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the value of the goods stolen. An item worth less than $100 could result in a $500 fine and a maximum of 60 days in jail, while, on the other end of the spectrum, property valued at $100,000 or more could garner a sentence of up to $10,000 in fines and 30 years in prison.

Burglary, on the other hand, does not require a taking of property. It is simply the act of entering a property without permission with the intent of committing a crime. The gravity of the crime depends to some extent on the property broken into. In Florida, burglary of a home or other dwelling carries a sentence of up to 15 years in prison. Breaking into an automobile, by contrast, carries a maximum prison sentence of five years. If there are aggravating factors — such as possessing a firearm or harming or threatening harm to someone — the sentence might be increased to life in prison.

Robbery is the act of stealing using force, violence or the threat of violence — for example, holding up a shop clerk at gunpoint in broad daylight and making her hand over all the money in the cash drawer. But if the same person breaks into a store after hours and threatens someone inside, that could carry a charge of burglary and robbery. Armed robbery carries a sentence of up to 30 years in state prison and up to $10,000 in fines.

Theft, burglary and robbery — together or in combination — can carry hefty penalties and fines and require a skilled lawyer to provide an effective defense.

Alan Fowler and his law firm, Key West Criminal Defense, are a team of attorneys and paralegals who have successful defended clients in a range of criminal cases in Key West, the Florida Keys, and Monroe County, Florida. Call (305) 417-9378 or contact us online for a free consultation.

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Uncategorized

What Happens if You Violate Your Probation

Probation is always preferable to jail, but the key to successful probation is to avoid violating it. And that means knowing what kinds of conduct rise to the level of violations.

In Florida, such conduct can include refusing to pay fines ordered by the court; traveling or meeting with certain people without first seeking permission from your officer; possessing, using or selling illegal drugs; getting arrested for any reason; missing appointments with your probation officer or missing a court appearance.

Your probation officer may merely issue you a warning but could require you to appear in court on a Violation of Probation charge. If that happens, it is important to treat the case as seriously and defend it as vigorously as any other criminal charge, which includes retaining a skilled lawyer immediately.

Just because your probation officer says you violated the terms of your probation doesn’t mean the charge will be held up in court. The state must prove that you willfully and substantially violated the terms of your probation. The judge will hear from your probation officer and you as to what exactly happened and will consider your criminal history and the seriousness of your violation.

So if you missed one appointment but gave a reasonable explanation, a judge likely would not consider that either substantial or willful. But missing several appointments would suggest deliberate avoidance, which is much more likely to be considered a violation. Likewise, an arrest alone is not considered a violation, but if you are convicted, it is a serious one.

A capable lawyer may be able to challenge other charges, including positive drug test results, which have been thrown out when the expertise of those administrating drug tests is called into doubt. As in other criminal cases, hearsay generally is not admissible, so a records custodian testifying that you failed a test may be excludable evidence.

Though there are defenses, a Violation of Probation charge is extremely serious and shouldn’t be treated lightly. If a court finds that you violated your probation, the maximum penalty for your original offense could mean going from probation to prison. Other potential consequences are wide ranging, from a warning or an additional fine to new criminal charges or an extension of your probationary period.

If you have been accused of violating probation, immediately contact an experienced lawyer who may be able to contest the charge or minimize penalties.

Alan Fowler and his law firm, Key West Criminal Defense, are a team of attorneys and paralegals who have successful defended clients in a range of criminal cases in Key West, the Florida Keys, and Monroe County, Florida. Call (305) 417-9378 or contact us online for a free consultation.

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battery

What Is The Difference Between Simple and Aggravated Battery?

Battery is the intentional touching of another person without consent, even if that person isn’t harmed. In Florida, this is known as a simple battery, a misdemeanor that carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a $1,000 fine.

But where the touching results in injury, it is an aggravated battery, a second-degree felony that carries serious penalties. Aggravated battery requires the intent to do serious bodily harm or the use of a deadly weapon and carries a sentence of up to five years in state prison and a $5,000 fine. The minimum sentence is 10 years in prison if the accused was carrying a firearm.

Defense of a battery case requires skilled criminal defense attorney. For either type of battery, prosecutors must prove that the defendant intended to touch the victim. For a simple battery, your attorney could argue that the touching was an accident, such as bumping into someone in a crowded bar.

Aggravated battery has an added burden of proof. The prosecution must show not only intent to make physical contact but also intent to do bodily harm. In one bizarre case, a Key West wedding ended early when a groomsman was showing off his knife skills after a round of drinks at the bar and accidentally stabbed the groom in the thigh. Because witnesses and even the groom agreed that the groomsman didn’t intend harm, he was charged not with aggravated battery but only with criminal mischief, disorderly conduct and improper exhibition of a dangerous weapon.

If you have been charged with battery, retaining a skilled defense attorney who has successfully handled battery cases can make all the difference. Even if a deadly weapon is involved, as in the Key West wedding case, your lawyer could argue that you didn’t intend to hurt anyone or that it was an accident. Other potential defenses against aggravated battery charges include arguing accidental harm, self-defense, mutual combat or alibi.

Not matter how serious you perceive your case to be, contact a lawyer right away.

Alan Fowler and his law firm, Key West Criminal Defense, are a team of attorneys and paralegals who have successfully defended clients in aggravated battery cases in Key West, the Florida Keys, and Monroe County, Florida. Call (305) 417-9378 or contact us online for a free consultation.