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Florida Prosecutor Needs to Prove Value of Property Stolen for First-Degree Burglary

In a recent Florida burglary decision, two burglaries of the same home had occurred. These burglaries were separated by five days. The defendant had been convicted of burglary with more than $1,000 in property damage, but he was acquitted of the other residential burglary. He was also convicted of grand theft of property that was worth at least $20,000.

The defendant argued that the lower court had made a mistake in denying his requests for acquittal because the state failed to show:  (1) the amount of property claimed in the burglary charge and (2) the value of what was stolen in the grand theft offense.

At the lower level, the defendant was charged with residential burglary with intent to perpetrate theft and triggering property damage of more than $1,000. He was also charged with burglary with intent to perpetrate theft. The third charge was grand theft of assets worth at least $20,000 from victims’ homes.

The prosecutor claimed that the homeowners of the burglarized home had been away on a cruise. Their son checked on the home and found out they’d been burglarized. There was also damage to parts of the property and objects thrown all over the place. He called the police, who came to the scene. They discovered a cigarette butt from which they were able to pull DNA. The DNA matched the defendant’s.

Weeks later, the son returned again and found more damage to the doors of the house and more objects thrown around. He called the police to the scene and told them that the damage to the doors was more serious than the first burglary. He couldn’t lock the doors.

The police got search warrants on two apartments. The police found assets from the victims’ homes in these locations. One of the locations was the defendant’s home, where he and his girlfriend lived. Even the victims’ china was located there. At trial, the prosecutor didn’t itemize the value of what had been recovered from those locations.

The victims had to pay to fix up their homes. A witness testified that the value of what was stolen was more than $24,000. Of that amount, some were from the first burglary, and some were from the second. The rest was for objects that had never been returned to the victim.

The prosecutor rested, and the defendant moved for acquittal. He argued that the prosecutor hadn’t shown the damage that arose from the burglary was more than $1,000, and the prosecutor hadn’t put forward actual evidence connecting him to the burglary. The defendant argued that the prosecutor hadn’t shown that the objects found in the defendant’s home were knowingly stolen or that he had something to do with their being stolen. His motion was denied.

The defendant’s girlfriend’s brother provided testimony when the defendant’s defense was presented. He claimed he was able to get certain goods from a handyman and brought those goods to the defendant’s apartment, although he wasn’t involved in burglaries. Instead, he was a drug dealer who gave the handyman drugs in exchange for those goods. The brother had 23 felony convictions.

After his testimony, the defendant again asked for an acquittal. These motions were denied. The jury found him guilty of the first burglary, but not the second, and also guilty of grand theft of property worth at least $20,000. His motion for a new trial was denied.

The defendant appealed. The appellate court explained that the residential burglary law specifies that the amount of damage is a crucial element of the first-degree felony offense of residential burglary causing damage to a dwelling in excess of $1,000. Second-degree felony residential burglary would not require this proof. The defendant also argued the prosecutor hadn’t proven the value the stolen property had for the purposes of establishing grand theft.

He argued that the state had combined his purported theft of assets in the first burglary along with his receipt of assets taken in the second burglary sometime in the eight-month period after the first burglary. He argued that if the court considered all of this one course of conduct, he’d be convicted for actions outside the time period the prosecution had specified in its charging document.

Based on this, the court decided that the lower court made a mistake in denying the defendant’s request for a judgment of acquittal. It reversed and sent the case back down to reduce the first-degree felony burglary conviction to second-degree residential burglary and to reduce the defendant’s second-degree felony conviction to third-degree grand theft. The lower court was directed to resentence him.

If you are charged with first-degree burglary in Miami, you should be aware that you may be sentenced to prison time. It is crucial to retain an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Call The Hoffman Law Firm at (305) 928-1669, or contact us via our online form.

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