Sometimes possessing a stolen item is enough to prove theft in Florida. Other times it isn’t. In L.S. v. State, Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeals explains that possession automatically means theft only where the property in question has been recently stolen.

Approximately six months after a Miami-Dade police officer’s home was burglarized and his off-duty gun stolen in September 2010, L.S. was arrested and charged with grand theft of a firearm and possession of a firearm by a minor, among other crimes. He was part of a crowd of kids attending a music festival in Ft. Lauderdale, which allegedly dispersed after L.S. raised a gun in the air. He was apprehended by police, who found a loaded gun in his pocket that was later identified as the officer’s missing weapon. A judge found him guilty of the crimes charged.

On appeal, the Fourth District reversed the adjudication for grand theft, holding that the evidence presented was not sufficient to show that L.S. actually stole the gun. Under Florida law, a person commits theft by knowingly obtaining or using another’s property with the intent to deprive the other person of a right to the property, either temporarily or permanently. Possession of “recently stolen” property creates an inference that a person knew the property was recently stolen, unless otherwise explained.

The Fourth District ruled that the term “recently stolen” did not include the firearm at issue in this case, which had been swiped from the police officer’s home nearly six months before L.S. was arrested. The court observed that guns “are highly saleable and are in fact transferred with relative ease,” meaning that it could have changed hands more than once since being stolen. “What constitutes ‘recently stolen’ sufficient to apply the legislative presumption must be construed with that transferability in mind,” the court added.

The appeals court declined L.S.’s request to also reverse his adjudication for possession of a firearm by a minor, however, holding that the statute authorizing the charge (section 790.22(3)) is not unconstitutional. Although the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment provides citizens the right to bear arms, the court said this and other rights may be limited among children in ways not applicable to adults. “The Supreme Court has frequently approved limits on the constitutional rights of children,” the court noted, including limits on abortion, pornography and the right to trial by jury. “Likewise, in Florida the constitutional rights of children are not the same as those of adults and have not been treated the same under Florida law.”

As a result, the court affirmed the firearm possession adjudication.

While being charged with a crime is a serious matter at any age, a person under the age of 18 who commits a crime in Florida faces uniquely potential consequences that can have long lasting effects on the rest of his or her life. If you or a loved one are under the age of 18 and have been charged with a crime in Florida, contact the South Florida criminal defense attorneys at Anidjar & Levine. We represent clients throughout the region, including in Pompano Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Hialeah. Call us. at 800-747-3733 or fill out and submit our online “Contact Us” form to schedule a free initial consultation.

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