Lets say you are walking around your neighborhood and you find a golf cart in the middle of the road with the keys in it. You get curious to see if you can find something with the owners info on it and sit down to look through the cart. As you are looking around while sitting in the cart, the Police roll up and find you in the cart and it turns out it is stolen. Can you be charged for theft of the item, even thou you didn't steal it?


2 Answers 2


They can charge you with anything they think you did.

And yes, the circumstances play a large part in the decision to arrest, charge and prosecute.

However, circumstances include you: Reputation is everything.

If you are a 17 year old male troublemaker with a long juvie rap sheet, including 3 past instances of stealing golf carts, then expect to be charged with the theft. Honestly you would probably be charged with the theft if you had simply stayed away and called the cops to report it abandoned.

If you came upon it in your vehicle and it's obviously blocking the road and your apparent motive is to figure out how to move it so you can get by, then you're probably in the clear.

If you're a 44 year old owner of a golf cart business, PAL supporter, city councilwoman and know half the cops including one in the car that stopped you, then, they're going to pretty much listen to you as far as what's the deal with the cart. Probably ask you for help moving it safely, might even ask you to get your cart-hauler to take it to impound. You won't hear from the D.A. obviously; nobody will say "Sue Councilwoman stole a golf cart" because it would sound absurd and make the speaker appear to be a politically motivated liar.

That's the power of reputation; no one would speak it even if you did steal it. (Of course if you got caught doing it on a Ring camera, well, the hero takes a fall!)

Anything in between, they'll deal with it in proportion to both the facts about you and the fact about the situation. You do not have a right to get the same credibility as the councilwoman; that is earned. That's the power of reputation.

  • 2
    I love real world common sense answers like this. Not just citations of case law. Commented Jun 6, 2020 at 2:39

Probably, that person could be charged with theft.

In Florida, theft is defined as

812.014 Theft.— (1) A person commits theft if he or she knowingly obtains or uses, or endeavors to obtain or to use, the property of another with intent to, either temporarily or permanently: (a) Deprive the other person of a right to the property or a benefit from the property. (b) Appropriate the property to his or her own use or to the use of any person not entitled to the use of the property.

The question is whether that person will be charged or whether that person will be convicted. That is more up to prosecutorial discretion.

That person would be more likely to be charged if they matched the description of the person that did steal it. Otherwise they would be less likely to be charged.

The police can only arrest if they have probable cause. It is likely that they would be able to arrest that person and such an arrest would be maintianed.

The prosecution has a lot of discretion as to whether to file charges and there is not a standard that is applied to the prosecutor as far as I'm aware. So if the police chose to arrest, the prosecutor could file charges. In this circumstance, without any more information, I would find it doubtful that the prosecutor would file. It seems like it would be a fairly weak case.

The last question, whether that person would be convicted would be almost entirely dependent on how sympathetic they would be in the court room.

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