Spanish explorers first planted orange trees in Florida in the mid-16th century. Since then, the citrus industry has grown to become a large part of the state’s economy. In 2008, Florida grew more than 70 percent of the oranges produced in the United States, with a retail value of more than 1.5 billion. The state has written laws designed to protect this commodity from theft.
Section 601.041 of the Florida Statute defines “citrus fruit” as including oranges and related fruits such as tangerines and citrus hybrids. Section 812.012, which covers retail theft, includes items grown on the land as part of “Real property.” The Florida code further clarifies this definition in Section 812.015, “Theft, Robbery and Related Crimes,” when it defines “Farm produce” as items grown by a “Farmer” for sale or consumption. The “Florida Right to farm Act,” section 823.14 defines a farm as any building or land or equipment used in the business of agriculture.
Section 812.015, entitled “Theft, Robbery and Related Crimes,” details explicitly with farm theft. In part “g” of this section, the Florida Statutes define “farm theft” as “the unlawful taking possession of any items that are grown or produced on land owned, rented or leased by another person.” These items, per the definitions in this Section and Section 601.041, include oranges, making it illegal to pick them without a farmer’s permission or without paying the farmer.
Section 812.015 also stipulates that individuals engaged in the act of “farm theft” might also be committing trespassing, as defined in Section 810.08.
Section 812.015 also stipulates the measures that a farmer can take to prevent farm theft and recover any stolen property. Parts “(1)h” and “(1)i” of this Section stipulate the types of anti-shoplifting measures a farmer may take to secure his produce. According to Part “(3)a” of Section 812.015, a farm or anyone who works on the farm may detain anyone illegally taking oranges so long as the farmer apprehends the offender on the farm property. A farmer or one of the farm’s workers may also recover any stolen oranges.
The penalty for “farm theft” can vary depending on the dollar value of the produce stolen. Section 812.015 considers “farm theft” as a first-degree misdemeanor. However, certain mitigating factors can increase the charges. If a person steals oranges valued at more than $300, the statute treats the crime as a third-degree felony. If a person steals oranges by using anything that would disable anti-shoplifting devices, the statute treats the crime as a third-degree felony.
An individual caught stealing oranges can also face trespassing charges, which range from a second- or third-degree misdemeanor to a third-degree felony.
- Orange tree image by RUZANNA ARUTYUNYAN from Fotolia.com