16 May 2015

Civil Theft in Florida: A statute designed to help victims.

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By Daniel F. Dickenson, Esq.

In my practice, I often find clients who have been the victims of theft of considerable sums of money. Often there are serious impediments to recovery such as a difficult to find perpetrators or uncollectible defendants. Frequently, I hear that the police are unwilling to pursue the perpetrators. I often hear second hand from clients that the police have told them that the theft is not a criminal matter, “it’s a civil matter.” Well, technically, it is both.

In a criminal context, a theft is defined in Florida as follows:

812.014 Theft.—

(1) A person commits theft if he or she knowingly obtains or uses, or endeavors to obtain or to use, the property of another with intent to, either temporarily or permanently:

(a) Deprive the other person of a right to the property or a benefit from the property.

(b) Appropriate the property to his or her own use or to the use of any person not entitled to the use of the property.

Technically, it is a criminal matter as long as the above elements are met. Frequently, clients come to me very frustrated with the lack of action on behalf of law enforcement in pursuit of their hard earned money. The good news is that Florida’s Civil Theft Statute offers victims the opportunity to recover their money, their attorneys’ fees and potential treble (triple) damages.

At the end of the day, most clients just want their money back and the Civil Theft Statute offers them the ability to do so. The statute reads as follows:

772.11 Civil remedy for theft or exploitation.—

(1) Any person who proves by clear and convincing evidence that he or she has been injured in any fashion by reason of any violation of ss. 812.012812.037 or s. 825.103(1) has a cause of action for threefold the actual damages sustained and, in any such action, is entitled to minimum damages in the amount of $200, and reasonable attorney’s fees and court costs in the trial and appellate courts. . . .

The Civil Theft Statute can be tricky in litigation. If you do not succeed at trial on a claim of civil theft there is a possibility that the defendant can recover their attorneys fees against you, the plaintiff. This is why you need a Florida lawyer to navigate you through this type of litigation and help you use Florida’s Civil Theft Statute to obtain justice.

Daniel F. Dickenson, Esq.

Daniel is a trial lawyer specializing in personal injury, insurance litigation and general civil litigation in Boca Raton, Florida.  

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