It’s known that gas prices are constantly changing based on available crude oil supplies. The prices may have gone down now, but they could suddenly spike in the near future as supplies run out.
Price hikes for fuel hurt everyone, and some desperate drivers might turn to theft to circumvent rising costs. However, retail fuel theft – also known as a gas drive-off – is against the law in Florida, and there are penalties for those who violate the rules.
Obtaining stolen fuel is illegal
Anyone who manages to steal fuel, regardless of how it was stolen, commits a felony of the third degree, according to Florida law. This includes theft through the criminal collaboration of a convenience store/gas station employee, using electronic devices to trick the gas pumps and tampering with the fuel dispensers. Likewise, anyone who aids or assists someone in stealing fuel also commits a felony of the third degree.
If a person charged with a felony of the third degree is convicted, they face up to five years in prison and as much as $5,000 in fines. The person will also have to pay for all reasonable costs incurred by law enforcement involved in the case and the retail value of any fuel stolen.
Tampering with a fuel dispenser is illegal
By law, it’s illegal to manipulate, interrupt, replace or remove any mechanical or electronic part in a retail fuel dispenser. It’s also against the law to utilize any electronic communication device to alter the function of a retail fuel dispenser. Anyone convicted of this offense faces a felony of the second degree, which carries a prison sentence of up to 15 years and as much as $10,000 in fines.
Fuel theft equipment can be confiscated and destroyed
Suppose a station attendant or officer catches a driver with a vehicle modified to hold more fuel or has any equipment designed to contain more fuel than their vehicle can hold, intending to steal fuel. In that case, the driver can face a third-degree felony charge on top of any charges they face for fuel theft.
Officials can confiscate the driver’s fuel theft equipment per state law, and if a court sentences a driver, a judge can order the equipment destroyed – with the convicted driver footing the bill.
A gas drive-off is a crime in Florida, even if it hurts nobody and gas prices are skyrocketing. Drivers should keep these rules in mind because the penalties for fuel theft are severe.