Newest Florida Scrap-Metal Law Helps Decrease Stolen Property Cases

A new Florida law that took effect in July last year requires proof of ownership for those trying to sell certain items including, street signs, manhole covers and air conditioner parts. Scrap dealers can no longer pay in cash for those items like they used to. This law was supposed to make it harder for crooks to profit from re-selling your stolen air conditioner. Fewer cases have been reported since the law went into effect. The new law also allows police to charge suspected metal thieves, even if they’re not caught red-handed.

Many times, thieves will target old, abandoned, or temporarily unoccupied buildings. Thieves may think they are stealing property that is no longer wanted but the problem arises when the building owner wants to sell the building, including the contents within. Thieves will take air conditioning units for the copper wire, steel appliances, or other valuable metal that the thieves can find.

The crime of Dealing in Stolen Property in Florida, also known as Fencing, involves the buying and selling of property that one knows, or should know was stolen. The mere buying of property one know or should have known was stolen does not establish one was dealing in Stolen Property if there is no evidence that one intended to resell the property; however, one can still be convicted of either Grand Theft or Petit Theft for this knowledge.

Dealing in Stolen Property is a second degree felony exposing one to up to a combination of up fifteen years in prison, up to fifteen years of probation, and Up to $10,000 in fines.

The Florida legislature has also been involved in addressing the issue of stolen cars. A new law was recently passed which made it illegal for salvage companies and others to salvage a car for scrap metal or strip it for parts without the title to the vehicle. In the past, people could sell old cars to salvage yards without the title, and the salvage yards would break the cars down or crush them and sell the parts or the metal. Requiring the person selling the vehicle to the salvage yard to provide the title to the vehicle presumably lends some legitimacy to the transaction and helps prevent people from quickly selling stolen vehicles to the salvage company, although fake titles are fairly common and many people keep their titles in the glove compartment.Task forces have been created in order to battle the ever popular and lucrative crime of metal theft.

Jacksonville police also use Craigslist and other communication forms as a way to investigate these crimes by going after those who advertise buying and selling old cars without requiring the title. These advertisements are now against the law due to the recent change in the law.
In addition to the pretrial and trial defenses that an experienced attorney could raise in any criminal case, a specific defense to the crime of Dealing in Stolen Property is the defense of satisfactory explanation. In general, a person cannot be convicted of Dealing in Stolen Property if the person can satisfactorily explain how they came to be in possession of the stolen property without knowing that it was stolen.

In Jacksonville, some judges can be particularly tough on theft crimes, more so than other judges. These situations can sometimes leave some first time offenders in worse situations than second or third time offenders because of the judge they come before. In these situations, one needs an experienced Jacksonville theft crimes defense attorney to mount the best defense possible, so that no matter what judge one goes before, one will have a better chance of having a more favorable set of circumstances, possibly even acquittal.

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

Additional Sources: Florida law aimed at curbing scrap metal theft seems to be working, Brendan McLaughlin, ABC Action News

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