Theft of Guns in Florida a Serious Felony Offense

A suspected gang member has been arrested for theft of a firearm in connection with a Hollywood burglary, while Broward County officials continue to search for two others believed to have also been involved.
At this time, the Sun Sentinel reports the 19-year-old suspect has been charged with burglary of a dwelling and larceny of a firearm. The residence he is accused of burglarizing is less than a mile from where he lives. In addition to the theft of two rifles and three shotguns, authorities say the culprits took jewelry, a laptop and an iPad. All firearms were reportedly loaded at the time they were heisted.

While burglary is a serious felony charge, as is the theft of electronics and jewelry, the most severe charges in this case are going to stem from the fact that guns were involved and that this was possibly in connection with gang activity.

Consider that while ordinary theft of items under $300 is a misdemeanor, punishable by no more than one year in jail, the case is boosted automatically to a third-degree felony when one of the stolen items is a firearm. Per Florida Statute 812.014, that could result in a maximum prison sentence of up to five years.

Then there is the burglary charge. Normally, this is a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. That’s assuming that you entered a dwelling but you weren’t armed, you didn’t assault anyone and there was no one else inside the dwelling at the time the burglary took place. However, if you are armed at the time of the offense – or if you become armed (i.e., you steal loaded firearms) – the offense is kicked up to a first-degree felony, punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

Then you consider gang-related enhancements. According to Florida Statute 874.04, if prosecutors can prove that your actions were for the purposes of benefiting, promoting or furthering the interests of a criminal gang, your penalties can be increased. Basically, whatever level of crime you are facing, prosecutors can boost it to the next level if the offense is gang-related. So that means a second-degree misdemeanor can be punished as a first-degree misdemeanor, a first-degree misdemeanor can be punished as a felony, a third-degree felony can be punished as a second-degree felony, a second-degree felony can be punished as a first-degree felony and a first-degree felony can be punished as a life felony.

This statute is only applicable to adults. At age 19, the defendant in this case would qualify.

However, it’s worth noting that even one’s belonging to a gang does not necessarily mean that the crime committed was in furtherance of the gang. The burden of proof in that case would be on the prosecutor.

A person facing any one of these charges should not leave their case to chance by relying on an overworked public defender. An experienced criminal defense lawyer has the potential to make a big difference in the outcome of your case.

If you are charged with a crime in Palm Beach or Broward counties, contact the Law Offices of Leifert & Leifert, a Partnership of Former Prosecutors, for a free consultation to discuss your rights. Call 1.888.5.DEFEND.

Additional Resources:
Gang member stole weapons during Hollywood burglary, cops say, Oct. 1, 2013, By Erika Pesantes, Sun Sentinel
More Blog Entries:
Coverup of Criminal Investigation Source Could be Problematic for Prosecution, Aug. 25, 2013, Hollywood Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog

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