In Florida, any criminal violation can negatively impact your livelihood. That includes a charge of petit theft, as few employers will hire an individual if they fear that person could steal from them.
Not only can a petit theft charge hurt employment prospects, but it could also result in jail time, probation, and a hefty fine.
If you find yourself facing petit theft charges, contact a criminal defense lawyer as soon as you can.
Hiring an attorney from Orlando Defense who has experience defending against allegations of petit theft in Florida can provide you with a serious advantage.
No matter what happened in your case, our team of shoplifting attorneys possesses the knowledge and skill necessary to give you the representation you deserve.
We are committed to giving our clients the highest level of advocacy and obtaining a favorable outcome on your behalf. Contact Orlando Defense today to start your free consultation.
What Is Petit Theft in Florida?
According to Florida Statute 812.014, a theft occurs when someone “knowingly obtains or uses” the property of another person, coupled with the intent to:
- Deprive the other person of the right to use or benefit from the property; and
- Appropriate the property for his or her own use or for someone else’s use who does not own the property.
Petit theft constitutes the lowest level of theft crime contained in Florida’s criminal code. Only stolen property valued at less than $750 authorizes charges for petit theft in Florida.
Stealing items valued above $750 typically warrant charges for grand theft. Depending on the value of items stolen and your prior convictions, a grand theft charge can rise to the level of a first-degree felony.
A first-degree felony can carry the potential of up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Penalties for Petit Theft in Florida
The penalties for a petit theft charge depend on your prior convictions for any theft crime and the value of the property stolen. The different levels of petit theft and the penalties for each level are described below.
First Degree Petit Theft
In general, a petit theft charge for a first-time offender, known as first-degree petit theft, constitutes a first-degree misdemeanor. A first-degree misdemeanor carries the potential of up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
Second Degree Petit Theft
Second-degree petit theft, also called petty theft, occurs when the value of the stolen property is below $100. With petit theft, retail locations often represent the victim of the crime. Second-degree petit theft represents the least severe form of theft.
Florida considers petty theft below $100 a second-degree misdemeanor. A second-degree misdemeanor carries the potential of up to 60 days in jail and a fine of up to $500.
If you receive a petty theft charge and you have a prior theft conviction on your record, the second-degree petty theft charge rises to a first-degree misdemeanor.
Two Prior Theft Convictions—Felony Petit Theft
If you have two prior theft convictions on your record and receive a petit theft charge, Florida considers the charge a third-degree felony. In cases such as this, the value of the items allegedly stolen is irrelevant. It is the prior convictions that lead to the felony charge.
In Florida, a third-degree felony carries the potential of up to five years in prison. Additionally, a third-degree felony carries the possibility of a fine not to exceed $5,000.
Added Consequences of Criminal Convictions
Outside of criminal penalties like fines and jail time, a criminal conviction for petit theft can impose other consequences as well. Petit theft is known as a crime of dishonesty. That means you can miss out on employment and educational opportunities that you might obtain otherwise.
Additionally, a criminal conviction could affect your child custody arrangement. A criminal conviction will appear on your criminal record. That means every time someone runs a background check, they will see your petit theft conviction.
Statute of Limitations for Petit Theft in Florida
Petit theft, under Florida Statute 812.035, has a five-year statute of limitations. That means the prosecution must bring petit theft charges within five years of the theft. A statute of limitations aims to prevent unfair prosecution after a certain period of time has passed.
The statutory period pauses, or tolls, if you’re continuously absent from the State of Florida or if you don’t have a reasonably ascertainable place of abode or work within the state.
Defenses to Petit Theft Charges
There are several legal defenses that can apply to petit theft charges. Some of these defenses include:
- Witnesses mistook you for someone else;
- False accusations;
- Lack of intent to permanently deprive;
- Lack of possession;
- Mere presence at the scene of the crime;
- The item you stole was valueless;
- Inadvertent removal or alteration of price tags; and
- The true owner voluntarily abandoned the items you took possession of.
The criminal defense attorney at Orlando Defense can help you determine if one of these legal defenses applies to your case, and present the information to the prosecutor or in court.
In those situations, the prosecution might agree to a favorable plea agreement that helps you avoid any time in jail, or the jury could find you not guilty.
Dealing with Petit Theft Charges in Florida? Reach Out to Orlando Defense Today for Representation
Receiving a petit theft charge, even as a first-time offender, can cause complications in anyone’s life. By hiring an experienced petit theft attorney, you can provide yourself the best chance of negotiating a favorable plea.
Additionally, a criminal defense attorney can help you determine which legal defenses apply to your case. As a former public defender, Attorney Jeffery Higgins has represented dozens of clients facing charges for petit theft.
With over 20 years of experience, Jeff understands how the criminal justice system works and how to properly defend allegations of petit theft.