Kelso v. State

The Facts

The defendant committed theft of property worth more than $5000 and of a firearm. Both acts were part of the same criminal transaction.

Procedural History

The Supreme Court of Florida affirmed judgment of the initial trial court.


According to Fla. Stat. § 812.014, (2003), 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 statute determines unlawfully taking firearm and valuable properties of different as separate and distinct theft offenses, even though the acts committed in a single criminal episode. [Fla. Stat.  § 812.014(2)(b), (c)]

Principle of double jeopardy was established by the Fifth Amendment to the U S Constitution. In accordance with the principle a defendant in criminal prosecution is protected from standing trial twice for the same offense. If it is a case then the defendant appears to be “in jeopardy” once the jury is sworn. Double jeopardy protects defendants only for retrials brought within the original jurisdiction, which is why a defendant can be tried in federal court after being tried in state court.

“Where multiple punishments are imposed at a single trial, the role of the constitutional guarantee against double jeopardy is limited to assuring that a court does not exceed its legislative authorization by imposing multiple punishments arising from a single criminal act. The prevailing standard for determining the constitutionality of multiple convictions for offenses arising from the same criminal transaction is whether the legislature intended to authorize separate punishments for the two crimes.”

The Issue

Whether multiple theft convictions arising from the same criminal episode are allowable and hence, violated principle of double jeopardy.

The Holding/Reasoning

The Supreme Court of Florida stated that convictions and sentences for multiple theft offenses arising from the same criminal episode are permitted under Fla. Stat.  § 812.014, (2003). The court further accepted that “strong policy concerns motivated the legislature to single out these theft offenses for separate punishment. Specifically with regard to the offense of theft of a firearm under Fla. Stat. § 812.014(2)(c)(5), (2003), the legislature clearly had a strong policy concern for singling out the theft of such dangerous instrumentalities that are widely used in the commission of violent crimes… The same is true for all of the properties which are specifically enumerated in Fla. Stat. § 812.014, (2003). The values of those items of property are irrelevant to the grading of the corresponding theft offense.”

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