The Law & Penalties for Giving False Information to a Pawnbroker
March 3, 2022 Don Pumphrey, Jr. Criminal Defense Social Share
Pawning has become a staple of reality television in America. From hit 19-season series “Pawn Stars” to “Hardcore Pawn,” the United States fostered an interesting fascination with watching these pawnbrokers negotiate, sell, buy, and seek profit. But what happens if you sell something to a pawnbroker claiming it is yours when it actually isn’t? Many would be surprised that this offense is classified as a felony in Florida and comes with severe penalties.
The Florida Pawnbroking Act
Florida pawn shops “are licensed and regulated by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The Florida Pawn Statutes are publicly available on the official website of the Florida Legislature.” Inside of these rules and regulations maintaining Florida’s pawn trade is the statute defining the offense of False Verification or giving false information to a pawnbroker. It is codified in Section 539.001(8)(b)(8) of the Florida Statutes. Essentially, it states that it is a crime for you, in order to receive money in a pawn transaction, to knowingly provide false information regarding your legal right to sell the property. Usually, this means that you would have told the pawnbroker that you owned the item and had the legal right to sell it when the property is actually stolen or, legally, not yours to sell.
The statute states:
Any person who knowingly gives false verification of ownership or gives a false or altered identification and who receives money from a pawnbroker for goods sold or pledged commits:
a. If the value of the money received is less than $300, a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
b. If the value of the money received is $300 or more, a felony of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
Florida’s Pawnbroking Act obligates pawnbrokers to verify with the seller that the item they are trying to sell is one that they own, that it is not stolen, that the item has no liens or other financial burdens upon it, and that the person selling has the legal right to pawn the item. Pawnbrokers usually verify this information using a standard pawnbroker form which is signed and bestowed a thumbprint by the seller.
What Does the State Need to Prove?
In order to prove this offense in court, the prosecution must establish these elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- You entered into a pawn transaction with a pawnbroker;
- When you entered into the transaction, you knowingly falsely claimed ownership or legal right to sell the items, or gave the pawnbroker false identification; and
- You received money from the pawnbroker out of the transaction for the items sold or bargained for.
Related crimes include dealing in stolen property or the theft of the property that the offender sells to the pawnshop.
Under Florida law, the penalties will hinge on how much money you made from the pawn transaction. The penalties are as follows:
You Received Less Than $300
If you received less than $300 from the transaction, the offense will be classified as a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five (5) years in prison, or five (5) years of probation, and a fine of $5,000.
You Received More Than $300
If you received more than $300 from the transaction, the offense will be classified as a second-degree felony, punishable by up to fifteen (15) years in prison, or fifteen (15) years of probation, and a fine of $10,000.
While many defenses are available through pre-trial motions generally, one of the most useful defenses for this type of charge is lack of knowledge. If you believed, when you were transacting with the pawnbroker, that you had the legal right to pawn the property in question, then it is a defense to the charge since you did not knowingly provide false information.
In Wiley v. State, a 2002 Florida 1st District Court of Appeals decision, the court found that the lower court committed fundamental error in not instructing the jury on the knowledge element of the pawnbroker transaction fraud offense. The court found that the defendant may not have known when he pawned the jewelry that the jewelry was stolen.
Tallahassee Criminal Defense Attorney
If you or a loved one has been charged with providing false information to a pawnbroker, or false verification, ensure you hire a qualified Tallahassee criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to combat the charges. Don Pumphrey and the member of the legal team at Pumphrey Law Firm have decades of experience and will fight for your freedom. Give us a call at (850) 681 – 7777 or send an online message to discuss your legal matter during an open and free consultation with an attorney in our legal team.
Written by Gabi D’Esposito