What Was the Legislature's Intended Unit of Prosecution for the Theft of a Firearm In Florida's General Theft Statute ?
In Grappin v. State, 450 So. 2d 480 (Fla. 1984), the court was confronted with a decision of the Second District Court of Appeal that was in direct conflict with decisions from two other district courts of appeal.
The issue presented was the Legislature's intended unit of prosecution for the theft of a firearm under subsection (2)(b)(3) of Florida's general theft statute. 812.014, Fla. Stat. (1979).
Employing what it called "a common sense reading of the plain language of section 812.014(2)(b)," the Second District determined that such a reading demonstrates "that the legislature unmistakably intended for the simultaneous unlawful taking of more than one firearm to be subject to a separate prosecution." State v. Grappin, 427 So. 2d 760, 763 (Fla. 2d DCA 1983), approved, 450 So. 2d 480 (Fla. 1984).
Section 812.014(2)(b), Florida Statutes (1979), read as follows:
(b) It is grand theft of the second degree and a felony of the third degree . . . if the property stolen is:
Valued at $ 100 or more, but less than $ 20,000.
A will, codicil, or other testamentary instrument.
A motor vehicle.
Any member of the genus Bos (cattle) or the genus Equus (horse), or any hybrid of the specified genera.
Any fire extinguisher.
Any amount of citrus fruit consisting of 2,000 or more individual pieces of fruit.
The Second District noted that the Legislature's enactment "prefaced the respective item of property in parts 2 through 4 of subsection (2) (b) with the article 'a' . . . . In contrast, it prefaced the respective object of property in parts 5 through 7 with the article 'any.'" Grappin, 427 So. 2d at 762-63.
The Second District believed the Legislature's differing use of "a" and "any" was intentional.
We do not believe that the legislature inadvertently inserted different articles in parts 2 through 4 and 5 through 7.
In our view, the legislature's use of the article "a" in parts 2 through 4 reveals its recognition of the distinction in meaning between the articles "any" and "a" for purposes of establishing the permissible unit of prosecution.
In other words, its use of different articles signifies its intent, with respect to simultaneously pilfered firearms . . . to treat separately each stick in the bundle.Grappin, 427 So. 2d at 763.