You probably know that theft is determined by the dollar amount or fair market value of the property allegedly taken. You know that the difference between petit theft (a misdemeanor) and third-degree grand theft (a felony) is whether the value of the allegedly stolen property is less than or greater than $300. You also know that second and first-degree grand theft are based on value as well.
But did you know that no matter the value, theft of a firearm is always a felony? That is one of the statutory exceptions.
Grand theft of a firearm is a third-degree felony. This is because the legislature wanted to make it a more serious offense to steal a dangerous weapon.
Most guns sell for over $300 when brand new. However, firearms taken from cars or homes may have lost value over time due to use and expected wear and tear. Based purely on value, a firearm that was purchased in 2005 that's been fired a thousand times at a shooting range may not be worth more than $150. However, Florida law is clear: the theft of a firearm is a felony. Value is not an element of that charge.
Grand theft of a firearm is rarely a charge in and of itself unless a person invited into your home or car steals the gun. Usually, grand theft of a firearm is a charge that accompanies a burglary charge. So if you keep a firearm inside of your home or in your car and your home or car are broken into, if the gun is stolen, the grand theft of a firearm charge will go along with a burglary charge.
However, let's say that you keep a gun in your glove compartment. If you valet park your car and the parking valet steals your gun, the parking valet can only be charged with grand theft of a firearm because they were invited into your car. Same thing if a friend or housekeeper or laborer is invited into your home and they steal your gun. Since burglary requires the offender to enter a home or car when they do not have permission to enter, if the offender has permission, then the only charge that can be sustained is the grand theft of a firearm charge.
Eric Matheny is a criminal defense attorney serving Miami-Dade and Broward. Call today to discuss your case.