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Tallahassee Law Firms List the Most Common Legal Defenses Against Theft Charges

Tallahassee Law Firms List the Most Common Legal Defenses Against Theft Charges

If your facing theft charges in Tallahassee, it can be an incredibly stressful and frightening experience. As a local defense attorney whose defended hundreds of clients against theft allegations, I want offer some reassurance: there are viable legal defenses that could lead to reduced or dismissed charges.

In this article, I’ll walk through the most common theft defenses I’ve used to achieve successful case results for my clients. My goal is to educate those facing accusations so they understand their options and can make informed choices when building their defense strategy.

Challenging the Evidence

One of the most common and effective strategies is challenging the validity and admissibility of prosecution evidence. This encompasses a range of approaches:

  • Contesting unfair or illegal evidence gathering procedures. If evidence was obtained without probable cause or through an improper search, it may be excluded.
  • Questioning the chain of custody. If there are gaps or uncertainties in the handling of physical evidence, its integrity could be undermined.
  • Critiquing sloppy or inadequate documentation. Reports with errors or omissions may be less credible.
  • Highlighting contradictory witness accounts. Conflicts between testimonies introduce reasonable doubt.

I once had a client accused of stealing jewelry; but video footage showed her simply trying on items without leaving the store. By exposing flaws in the evidence, charges were dismissed pre-trial.

Arguing Against Criminal Intent

Most theft crimes require prosecutors to establish criminal intent; the accused knowingly and deliberately committed the illegal act. Without this crucial element, charges often falter.

Some ways we’ve successfully defeated allegations of intent include:

  • Mistake defenses, when the accused reasonably believed they had permission or ownership of the property.
  • Involuntariness claims, if duress, threats, or impaired mental state negated free will.
  • Necessity arguments, when dire personal or family need motivated the act.

I defended a struggling single mom who took diapers; we avoided conviction by demonstrating her desperate circumstances. By humanizing clients, juries often show leniency.


Another defense pathway is misidentification: proving prosecutors have the wrong person. Strategies here include:

  • Alibis confirming the accused couldn’t have committed the crime.
  • Eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable; skilled cross-examination can reveal memory gaps, biases, and inconsistencies.
  • Doppelgänger arguments: another similar-looking person may be at fault.

I once defended a man accused of shoplifting whose beard and build matched our client. But timecards proved he was working across town when it occurred. Charges dismissed!

Statute of Limitations

If too much time has elapsed between an alleged incident and arrest or charges being filed, the statute of limitations has expired. At that point, prosecution is prohibited. For theft, time limits are:

  • Petty theft: 2 years
  • Grand theft: 5 years
  • Aggravated white collar crimes: 5 years

I had a prior client arrested for stealing a rare book 2 years and 1 month after the supposed crime. We successfully argued the petty theft limitations period had expired; case thrown out.

Botched Miranda Procedures

Any self-incriminating statements made by a suspect before being read their Miranda rights are inadmissible. If questioning violated these Fifth Amendment protections, it severely hampers the prosecution’s case.

I recently defended a young man interrogated for 2+ hours without Miranda warnings. His “confession” was barred and charges dramatically reduced in plea bargaining.

Insufficient Evidence

In some cases, prosecutors simply lack adequate tangible proof a crime definitively occured or the accused was responsible. By demanding they meet their burden of proof “beyond reasonable doubt”, charges can be defeated on evidentiary grounds.

I defended a politician’s son accused of stealing electronics. Despite media outrage, prosecutors ultimately conceded their entirely circumstantial case was too weak for conviction.

Bottom Line

If facing theft allegations in Leon County, contact a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer to discuss evidence, intent issues, mistaken identity arguments, statutes of limitation, Miranda violations, evidentiary shortcomings or other possible defenses. An experienced attorney can often get charges reduced or dismissed – or at minimum negotiate a reasonable plea deal given the circumstances. Don’t go it alone against seasoned prosecutors without strong legal counsel in your corner.

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