Florida Court Kicks Walmart Theft Conviction on Double Jeopardy Grounds – Rimondi v. State

“You do the crime, you do the time” is a well-worn cliché about criminal justice in the United States, but as Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal recently explained in Rimondi v. State, the “double jeopardy” rule is intended to ensure that a person charged with a crime only does the “time” for it once.

Michelle Rimondi and her husband, Luis Milian, were arrested for stealing from a Port St. Lucie Walmart store in September 2009. According to police, a store security employee saw Rimondi hold a large box in front of Milian while he stuffed several razor packages into his pants. Once Milian was finished, he motioned to Rimondi, who then placed the box in a shopping cart.

For her role in the scheme, Rimondi was charged with third-degree grand theft and felony retail theft in concert with others. Following trial, she was sentenced to 30 months in prison. On appeal, however, the Fourth District ruled that the convictions violated the state’s double jeopardy rule, which generally provides that a person cannot be charged twice for the same crime.

As the court explained, the rule is rooted in the U.S. Constitution and codified under Florida law. Section 775.021(a)(4), Florida Statutes states that a person charged with a crime can’t be charged with the same criminal offense a second time after a conviction, acquittal or mistrial nor charged with the same offense twice in the same indictment or information. The rule does not ban “multiple punishments for different offenses arising out of the same criminal transaction,” however, where state lawmakers intended to authorize such punishment, the court said. Such authorization is presumed where the criminal offenses at issue each require proof of an element that the other does not.

In this case, the crimes for which Rimondi was charged occurred as part of the same criminal transaction, the razor theft. The statutes making grand theft and retail theft in concert with others crimes in Florida, however, do not clearly suggest intent by lawmakers to authorize two separate punishments, according to the court.

Moreover, each of the elements of proof required for a conviction for grand theft are also required for a felony retail theft in concert with others conviction. Because the latter offense also requires proof that the person charged “coordinated” with one or more other persons in carrying out the crime, the court found that third-degree grand theft is simply a lesser offense “subsumed by the felony retail theft offense,” the court ruled. As a result, the court reversed the third-degree grand theft conviction.

The double jeopardy rule is just one of the potential defenses available to a person charged with a crime in Florida. The South Florida criminal defense lawyers at Anidjar & Levine, P.A. handle a variety of criminal defense cases throughout the region, fighting aggressively to defend our clients’ rights and achieve the best possible outcome. Our team of attorneys, investigators and support experts are fully capable of handling all aspects of your case.

Related blog posts:

Florida Battery Case Poses Double Jeopardy Question – Green v. Florida

Court in Burglary Case Disapproves Evidence of Defendant’s Previous Crimes – Nshaka v. State

Court Explains Proximity Requirement in Burglary Tools Possession Case – Carbone v. Florida