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Defending a Pickpocket Charge

As reported by, Florida law enforcement agencies are warning residents about the risk of pickpockets when visiting shopping centers and other crowded areas. Though Christmas is over, the malls are still crowded with after-holiday sale seekers. Additionally, upcoming New Year celebrations will bring thousands of people together in single locations to ring in 2016. According to law enforcement, these types of environments are ripe for pickpockets. However, from the perspective of an accused individual, this type of environment also lends itself to false suspect identification. If you are facing theft charges, the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney is vital to the success of your defense.

What is Pick Pocketing?

Under Florida law, pickpocketing is labeled as ‘sudden snatching.’ The statute defines it as intentionally and unlawfully taking money or property from an individual’s body. Unlike other serious theft crimes, no showing of force or intimidation is required to prove this charge.

Sudden snatching is classified as a third degree felony under Florida law. The maximum possible penalty is five years imprisonment, along with five years of probation and/or $5000 in fines. Legislators take this charge seriously due to its closeness to the victim’s body, which makes it potentially dangerous.

If the accused was in possession of a weapon while committing a sudden snatching, the charge is elevated to a second degree felony. This elevation applies regardless of whether the weapon was actually used in committing the theft. Robbery by sudden snatching while in possession of a firearm or deadly weapon carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 21 months in prison. Convicted parties may also face up to 15 years in prison, 15 years of probation or up to $10,000 in fines.

Defending the Charge

There are numerous pretrial tactics that an experienced attorney can employ when defending a pickpocket charge. But if the case does progress to trial, the following are potential arguments that may result in a successful defense.

  • False Identification – Law enforcement agents sometimes rely on eyewitness statements to identify potential suspects. According to various experts, eyewitness testimony is often unreliable and results in wrongful accusations. This can be especially true in pick pocketing situations where there are crowds present. A victim or witness can easily identify the wrong party when faced with a sea of faces. An experienced lawyer can use the details of the event to question the accuracy of witness identification.
  • Claim of Right – The elements of sudden snatching include intent and unlawfulness. If the accused has a good faith belief that he is the owner of the taken property, and entitled to immediate possession, the elements of intention and unlawfulness are not met. Under these circumstances, your attorney can argue that your claim of right is an adequate defense to the pick pocket charges.

If you are facing pick pocket charges, contact an experienced defense attorney to discuss your defense. The Pawlowski//Mastrilli Law Group at 813-242-4404 serves clients in the Tampa area. Contact us today for a free case consultation.

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