Darren Hagerman and his sister Jessica Huggard of central Florida were arrested and charged with grand theft after a deputy found them driving a van overflowing with bags of chips that were apparently taken from a Frito-Lay factory. Both Hagerman and Huggard had keys to the Frito-Lay factory and would allegedly travel between Marion and Citrus counties collecting expired bags of chips and would resell them to make a living. The deputy pulled the siblings over early Friday after seeing a child jumping around in the backseat.
In theft cases, the value of the property is normally the reason for the charge. Not every store owner or manufacturing company brings a theft claim against an employee for “shrinkage” or against customers for stealing a pack of gum. However, valuable property theft normally results in criminal charges, and depending on the value, can end in an increase or decrease in punishment.
One of the defenses to theft from a major institution like a manufacturing and distribution company is equal ownership or rightful possession via contractual duty. A co-owner of property cannot be held guilty of the grand theft of such property unless the other co-owner has a superior legal interest that authorizes the withholding of the property. In a situation like this, Frito-Lay actually owns the property in the factory, but has contracts for eventual removal and destruction of expired and spoiled products. In other words, someone owns someone else’s trash. However, if an agreement has been entered into or one is authorized to take the property for someone else, one cannot legitimately steal from the property, because one has ownership interest in the property. However, if the other co-owner has superior interest, or majority interest, in the property, one may not take the property without complying with their conditions.
The other major defense in grand theft in a situation like this is that what one took is valueless. Simply put, it is impossible to steal trash. Florida law only criminalizes the stealing of "property." Property is defined as "anything of value" and the value is defined as "the market value of property at the time and place of the offense or, if such cannot be satisfactorily ascertained, the cost of replacement of the property within a reasonable time after the offense. Frito-Lay may not sell a bag of expired potato chips, as they might run into liability for spoiled food and face law suits as a result. In a sense, the bag of expired potato chips is more of a burden than benefit and has no value to the company.
Frito-Lay and other companies are subject to shrink, as seen by employees being caught taking supplies, boxes, and other belongings that were from the store they work for, but have now been set out by the dumpster. Simply put, if one’s employer places empty boxes out, it has become trash that presumably has no value, and one cannot be charged with the theft of that item. In this case, half of the chips had expired dates on them, making them valueless.
If one obtains an experienced Jacksonville theft crimes defense attorney , one will have a strong chance of obtaining a favorable outcome, and will have the best defenses to what one is accused of, helping one get through the legal system, possibly without any conviction whatsoever. One should not risk one’s chances on a judge’s good nature. One should obtain a sure help for the future.