Florida Man Accused of Theft, Trespassing, and Burglary Crimes in Adverse Possession Case

Jason Friedman, a man at the center of an adverse possession case, is accusing the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office of overreaching after deputies ordered him away from what seemed to be an abandoned home and arrested him. Friedman was attempting to occupy a home that appeared to be vacant and abandoned when he filed for adverse possession earlier this year. Friedman said the home’s actual owner had the police force him out less than two weeks after he filed for adverse possession. The deputy told Friedman’s wife, “You have five minutes to get all of your property and get out of this house or I’m taking you to jail.”
Friedman had to return to the home to reclaim his family’s possessions and was charged with several crimes, including burglary and theft.

Adverse Possession is the act of legally taking and removing someone elses right to their property, either from abandoning the property, or from sleeping on their rights. An adverse possessor can acquire title in spite of the true owner’s intent. Adverse possession laws are centuries old and, in Florida, the bar is set high. To adversely possess a property or home, the home has to be abandoned, the possessor has to have lived on the property for seven consecutive years, and its taxes have to be current. Friedman said he had not lived in the home for seven years or paid its taxes.

Many homes throughout Florida are summer homes owned by elderly individuals all across the nation. When elderly people become sick, the interests they manage, including homes and vehicles, become disorganized and are many times overlooked by other family members. Because the Florida legislature does not want Florida homes to sit empty, those who would occupy the property and actually use it are rewarded.

In this case, and like many before it, the squatter is charged or may be charged with trespassing, burglary, or even theft of property from trying to exercise their rights as adverse possessors. In these cases, there are many defenses to burglary charges and theft charges.

All of the theft related crimes mentioned above are considered “crimes of dishonesty.” This means that one knew the property was not one’s own to either enter upon, touch, or take.

One of the defenses to theft from an adverse possession claim similar to this is equal ownership. 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, if one is accused of these crimes, but one owns the property under what is referred to as “color of title”, or when one has been sold a house via a defective instrument, or bad deed, and one has recorded the bad deed in the official county records. If one has done so, one is not illegally trespassing or burglarizing anything. Under Florida’s pure notice statute, if one recorded the bad deed without knowledge that the home was occupied and paid taxes on it like every citizen does, on has superior interest in the house, and therefore cannot be shown to have the requisite knowledge or intent to trespass or steal anything.

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.

The Forbess Law Firm has been aiding clients who face criminal charges in Jacksonville for more than a decade and are here to provide aggressive criminal defense to anyone accused of a crime. If you or a loved one require a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer, contact our firm today. We are available through our website or by calling us at 904-634-0900.

Additional Source: Adverse Possession: Taking Over A Home Can Land You in Jail, Mary Toothman, The Ledger

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