In Florida, it is a felony to sell items that you know are stolen to a
pawnbroker, or pawn shop. In order to deter people from selling knowingly
stolen items, every Florida pawn shop requires sellers to sign affidavits
claiming that the items they are selling are, to the best of the seller's
knowledge, not stolen. The seller must then sign and put their fingerprint
on the affidavit.
The crime is called false verification to a pawnbroker. The language of
this law states that if you knowingly sell stolen property to a pawn shop,
and falsely verify (on the affidavit) that such items are not stolen,
you can be charged with a crime. If the amount of property is less than
$300, the crime is a third-degree felony punishable by 5 years in prison.
If the property is greater than $300, it is a second-degree felony punishable
by up to 15 years in prison.
A person usually gets arrested for this crime after burglary detectives
(known as GIU, or General Investigations Unit, in the Miami-Dade Police
Department) do a sweep of local pawn shops after a burglary, or rash of
burglaries, occur. Detectives will travel to pawn shops looking for items
reported missing by alleged burglary victims.
When detectives find these reportedly stolen items at pawn shops, they
ask the pawn shop owner if they can see the pawn affidavit. From that
affidavit detectives get not only the name of the seller, but their fingerprint, too.
I was a Miami-Dade prosecutor
, I handled countless pawnbroker cases, which normally accompanied burglary
and grand theft charges. As a Miami-Dade County criminal defense lawyer, I
represent people accused of this crime as well.
Having an affidavit is just one piece of evidence, but burglary detectives
(in both Miami-Dade and Broward) will try desperately to get a burglary
suspect to confess. Whatever you do, do not talk to police without first
speaking to an attorney. It is your constitutional right. Confessions
are powerful tools for the State Attorney's Office. Coupled with other
evidence, it may make the prosecution's case that much stronger.
Don't help police and prosecutors put you away. The cops are not your
friends. They are law enforcement officers who only want to arrest people
they think are guilty of crimes. They do not want to help you skate on
a charge if they think you are guilty.
The law even permits detectives to lie to you during questioning. They can tell you that they have your fingerprints
inside of the burglarized home, when they most certainly don't. If
you have co-defendants, they can lie by telling you that your co-defendant
has given a statement naming you as the burglar, when they haven't.
These tactics are not only condoned, they are encouraged by prosecutors.
Prosecutors want their detectives (and I use the word
their in the possessive tense because cops and prosecutors work alongside each
other) to put together the strongest cases. Strong cases are built on
two things: physical evidence and confessions. If the State has both,
it will be a tough battle ahead.
If you or someone you know is being charged with false verification to
a pawnbroker, please
call my office today