Florida’s tourism industry is one of the largest in the world. Orlando attractions includeSeaworld, Universal Studios and Disney World which attract millions of visitors each year from across the globe. Unfortunately, these sites offer plenty of opportunities for theft. For people facing theft charges at a theme park, they should know what defenses are available to help fight them.
Theme parks offer thieves many opportunities to take advantage of tourists who are often distracted by the attractions or who are caught up in crowds, often causing them to become careless about their personal property.
For others, they may be unfairly accused of taking items or property or who may have been mistaken about whether an item belongs to them or to anyone else. Some examples of theft that may take place at Orlando attractions include pickpocketing, robbery, use of stolen credit cards, or theft by hotel or motel employees.
If you are facing theft charges, here are some things to do to give you the best opportunity to fight these charges:
Remain silent: Once arrested, you may be asked to give a statement, orally or in writing, about the alleged offense. Law enforcement officers, before questioning you, must advise you of your right to remain silent and that you are entitled to have an attorney present at questioning. An officer might encourage you to talk by promising you leniency or even release but these are empty promises, which the officer will deny ever making. Remaining silent includes not talking to anyone about the crime while in detention or in a holding cell.
Call an attorney, friend or family member to arrange bail: Unless you have a prior criminal record or the theft was substantial, you should be able to meet bail. Have someone arrange it for you so you can be released quickly.
Retain an attorney: Theft convictions in Florida can result in revocation of your driver’s license along with possible prison time, especially if the value of the item taken exceeds $300, making it a felony.
There are defenses available to anyone accused of theft. Some of the more common ones include the following:
You may have been given consent to use or to hold an item or piece of property for a specific purpose. If you use for a different purpose, however, you may have exceeded that authority or committed fraud if you deceived the rightful owner. In other cases, someone may have given you an item and then changed his or her mind and accused you of theft.
Claim of Right
You may use this defense if you had a good faith belief that you obtained the property under a claim of right or that you were entitled to it. This defense applies even if that belief is unreasonable. This might apply if you took money from a person whom you believed owed it to you.
If the property was discarded or apparently abandoned, it has no value. Under the laws of theft, taking it would not constitute a crime.
In a shoplifting situation, some people in a busy department store or theme park gift shop who picked up an item and then became distracted, may have unintentionally taken the item without paying for it. Since there was no intent to steal it, there is no crime. An experienced criminal defense attorney has to convince a prosecutor or jury that the facts show that the defendant was merely distracted or simply forgot the item was in their possession.
Under some circumstances, an attorney might be able to get you into a pretrial diversion program, generally for first-time offenders. Those in the program may have to perform community service, undergo random drug testing, report to a probation officer, and not commit any further criminal offenses for a period. If successfully completed, the charges will be dismissed.
Withholding of Adjudication
In other cases, a plea bargain might result in a withholding of adjudication. You will have to plead guilty to the charge but the court will withhold the adjudication of guilt, meaning you have not been convicted of anything.
This allows you to pay a fine or perform community service if ordered and be placed on probation. If this is the only adjudication of guilt on your record, then you may be able to have your record sealed or expunged, which allows you to state under oath that you have never been convicted of a crime. This resolution usually applies to nonviolent crimes and to relatively minor theft offenses.