Theft of State Funds in Florida

In Florida, a merchant collects sales taxes on behalf of the State of Florida and is required to remit the accumulated sales taxes to the Florida Department of Revenue each month.

Intentional failure to timely remit the taxes is considered theft of state funds.

If accused of Theft of State Funds in Florida, you need to know the:

Definition of Theft of State Funds

Under Florida Statute 206.56 or Florida Statute 212.15, the crime of Theft of State Funds occurs when a merchant fails to remit taxes collected on behalf of the state with the intent to unlawfully deprive or defraud the state of its tax funds or their use or benefit.

State Funds

The taxes collected under Chapters 206 and 212 become state funds when collected by the merchant and must be remitted to the Florida Department of Revenue on the first day of the month following collection.

Penalties for Theft of State Funds

The penalties for Theft of State Funds are determined by the amount of tax revenue that was misappropriated.

$300 or more, but less than $20,000

Theft of State Funds of less than $300 is classified as a First Degree Misdemeanor.

If convicted of Theft of State Funds of less than $300, a judge can impose any combination of the following penalties:

  • Up to one (1) year in jail.
  • Up to one (1) year of probation.
  • Up to $1,000 in fines.

$300 or more, but less than $20,000

Theft of State Funds of $300 or more, but less than $20,000 is classified as a Third Degree Felony and is assigned a Level 1 offense severity ranking under Florida's Criminal Punishment Code.

If convicted of Theft of State Funds of $300 or more, but less than $20,000, a judge can impose any combination of the following penalties:

  • Up to five (5) years in prison.
  • Up to five (5) years of probation.
  • Up to $5,000 in fines.

$20,000 or more, but less than $100,000

Theft of State Funds of $20,000 or more, but less than $100,000 is classified as a Second Degree Felony and is assigned a Level 4 offense severity ranking under Florida's Criminal Punishment Code.

If convicted of Theft of State Funds of $20,000 or more, but less than $100,000, a judge can impose any combination of the following penalties:

  • Up to fifteen (15) years in prison.
  • Up to fifteen (15) years of probation.
  • Up to $10,000 in fines.

$100,000 or more

Theft of State Funds of $100,000 or more is classified as a First Degree Felony and is assigned a Level 7 offense severity ranking under Florida's Criminal Punishment Code.

If convicted of Theft of State Funds of $100,000 or more, a judge must impose a sentence of 21 months in prison absent grounds to impose a downward departure sentence and can also impose any combination of the following penalties:

  • Up to thirty (30) years in prison.
  • Up to thirty (30) years of probation.
  • Up to $10,000 in fines.

Defenses to Theft of State Funds

In addition to the pretrial defenses and trial defenses that can be raised in any criminal case, specific defenses to the crime of Theft of State Funds include:

  1. Good Faith Belief

Good Faith Belief

Under Florida law, the crime of Theft of State Funds requires proof that the merchant intented to deprive the state of the collected funds. So a merchant who keeps sales taxes with a good faith belief in the right to the funds based upon an accountant or or lawyer's advice would likely lack the requisite intent to commit Theft of State Funds.

As a result, a well-founded belief in one's right to the funds would constitute a complete defense to the crime of Theft of State Funds. [1]

Contact Criminal Defense Lawyer Richard Hornsby

If you have been arrested or charged with the crime of Theft of State Funds in Central Florida or the Greater Orlando area, contact Criminal Defense Lawyer today.

The initial consultation is free and I am always available to advise you on the proper course of action that can be taken.

References

  1. Bartlett v. State, 765 So. 2d 799 (Fla. 1st DCA 2000)