Failure To Return Leased Personal Property

Whether it’s an automobile rented for one’s transportation while on vacation, a jet ski rented to be used socially for leisure time fun, or a simple tool rented from a large hardware store, if one rents the property of another and fails to return it timely upon the expiration of the rental term, they could be charged with a criminal offense in Florida.

What many don’t realize is that a failure to return this property can amount to a charge of Failure to Return Hired or Leased Property under Florida Statute 812.155(3). Of course it doesn’t take an individual conferring with a Tampa criminal attorney to realize that failure to return property to its rightful owner could amount to a petit theft or grand theft charge, however, if one inadvertently abandons or fails to return the property timely, they could be charged with it’s failure to be returned to the rightful owner. If you’re thinking it seems harsh to charge someone with a crime for getting the property to its owner in a timely fashion, we agree! Our attorneys understand that just because a criminal allegation has been made, it doesn’t necessarily mean that a crime has occurred. We’ve made a living dissecting allegations to the point where we earn our clients results that won’t negatively affect them for years to come.


As often is the case, an explanation using a Florida jury instruction is the best way to help you understand an allegation of this variety. Simply put to prove the crime of Failure to Return Leased Property, the State must prove the following elements beyond and the exclusion of every reasonable doubt:

  1. The Defendant leased personal property or equipment from the alleged victim or victim’s agent.
  2. As part of the leasing, Defendant agreed to return the property or equipment to the alleged victim or the alleged victim’s agent at the end of the period for which the property or equipment was leased.
  3. Defendant knowingly abandoned or refused to return the property or equipment as agreed.
  4. Defendant did so without the consent of the alleged victim or the alleged victim’s agent.

Just because one has been accused of a crime does not mean that they actually committed a crime or that the State can prove that they did. With the recent glut of criminal lawyer shows on television the general public has been given a dose of the terms actus reas and mens rea in reference to a criminal allegation. In plain English, a crime consists of an actual “act” performed by the accused. In addition to the act being performed, that act must have been performed with a criminal state of mind. Using this charge as an example, if one rents property and fails to return the property on the return date, if they did so knowing the lease term had expired and knowingly kept the property, they have committed the crime of failure to return leased property. Conversely, if the person was simply unaware that the return date had come and gone, yet still possessed the property, the State would likely not be able to prove that a crime has been committed because they would have great difficulty proving the failed return was done so knowingly. This would be a very legitimate to a charge of this variety that we may be able to assert on behalf of a client. Additionally, if there have been oral agreements to extend the rental period or an oral waiver of the requirement to return the property, this can be asserted as well.


Allegations of theft crimes are very serious and must be handled with great concern and precision. Give us a call to see how we can help you at 813-444-7435 or at 727-771-3847.