State of Emergency - Florida Crimes

State of Emergency

What happens if you commit a crime during a State of Emergency? In Florida, theft crimes are classified one degree higher. That means if you commit a Third Degree Felony grand theft because whatever you stole was valued over $300 - you just committed a second degree grand theft. But only if you used the State of Emergency to facilitate your crime. For example: Let's say the governor declares a State of Emergency, like he has in Pasco and Pinellas Counties today because of Tropical Storm Colin. Your neighborhood has been evacuated and you know most of the homes are vacant. You go into your neighbor's garage and steal the lawn mower. The fact that the house was vacant gave you the opportunity to go into the house. You just committed a second degree grand theft, rather than a third degree. So instead of 5 years in prison, you are now looking at 15. State of Emergency
Florida Statute 812.014 - Theft, Robbery and Related Crimes says:
"However, if the property is stolen within a county that is subject to a state of emergency . . , the theft is committed after the declaration of emergency is made, and the perpetration of the theft is facilitated by conditions arising from the emergency, the theft is a felony of the first degree . . . For purposes of sentencing under chapter 921, a felony offense that is reclassified under this paragraph is ranked one level above the ranking under s. 921.0022 or s. 921.0023 of the offense committed." Emphasis added.
In addition to the enhanced penalties for crimes during a State of Emergency, it is also illegal for businesses that sell commodities to price gouge. That means anyone selling gas, ice, water, lumber, or hotel rooms can't jack up the price because of the State of Emergency. The Attorney Generals Office has a hotline number to call if you think you've been a victim of price gouging. That number is 1-866-9-NO-SCAM. Luckily, for the residents of most of the Tampa Bay area, this storm probably won't amount to that much damage. But if you are considering committing a crime during a State of Emergency - think twice. And think about how unsympathetic a jury might be when they hear your case.