Florida Petit Theft Laws and Penalties

Petit Theft Laws and Punishments in the State of Florida (FL)

In Florida, theft crimes may be charged as a felony or misdemeanor depending on the facts and circumstances surrounding the crime. The key distinction in determining whether a theft crime is charged as a misdemeanor or a felony is the value of the property stolen. An individual who steals property appraised at less than $300.00 commits "Petit Theft." The word "Petit" is taken from the French word that means "small."  Petit Theft criminal offenses in Florida are either charged as a first-degree misdemeanor or a second-degree misdemeanor. 

According to Florida Statute Section 812.014, theft is defined as knowingly using, taking, obtaining, endeavoring to obtain or use, on a permanent or temporary basis, thereby depriving the owner of their right to use their property or to receive benefit from utilizing the property taken from them. In other words, theft transpires when an individual uses the property to the loss of its owner when the individual had no authority to utilize the stolen property.

Theft is considered a "specific intent crime." Specific intent crimes are offenses in which a prosecutor must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the accused meant to commit specific harm to another. Specific intent crimes in theft cases require the prosecutor to prove that the accused had the specific intent to deprive the property owner of their right to enjoy their property. Moreover, the prosecution must also prove that the accused intended to steal the property.

The following is a hypothetical factual scenario that illustrates the finer point of "intent to deprive," an "intent to steal." A man is leaving a restaurant, and he took a coat off the rack and then walked out of the restaurant. However, two identical coats were on the rack, and the man accidentally took the wrong coast. In that situation, the man who took the wrong coat did not commit a crime when he "accidentally" took the wrong coat because the man did not intend to permanently deprive the owner of the coat. However, if the man did not have a coat on the coat rack and then purposefully took someone else's coat would have committed theft. 

812.012 Definitions. As used in Florida State Statues 812.012 through 812.037

The following are the legal terms and definitions that are used in this Statute Section.

  • "Cargo" - The legal term "Cargo" means the entire or partial shipment, cartons of property, or containers which are carried in or on a trailer, aircraft, motortruck, boat, barge, vessel, freight station, warehouse, air navigation facility, or freight consolidation facility.  

  • "Dealer in property" is a legal term used to describe a person in the business of selling or buying property. 

  • "Obtain or uses" - The legal term "Obtains or uses" means to exercise control over property, take, make unauthorized use, disposition, or to transfer of property, obtain property by fraud, to make a willful misrepresentation of a future act or false promise, steal, embezzle, misappropriate, convert, obtain money or property by fraud, deception or false pretenses.

  • "Property" is the term for anything of value such as real property, tangible or intangible personal property, including privileges, rights,  claims, and interests, and services.

  • "Property of another" describes the property belonging to a person which another person is not permitted to use or infringe without consent, regardless if the other person has an interest in the property or not.  

  • "Services" is a term that means anything of value created from a person's mental or physical labor or skill such as professional services,  lodging accommodations, admissions to places of exhibition or entertainment, repairs or improvements to property, private, public, or government communication, transportation, power, water, or sanitation services.

  • "Stolen property" refers to property that has been criminally taken.  

  • "Traffic" means to sell, dispense, distribute,  transfer, buy, possess, obtain control of, receive, or use the property with the intent to transfer, sell, dispense, distribute, or otherwise dispose of such property.  

  • "Enterprise" is the legal term used to describe the individual, corporation, business trust, partnership, sole proprietorship, union chartered under the laws of Florida, or other legal entity, or any association, unchartered union, or group of individuals associated in fact but is not a legal entity.

  • "Value" means how the value of a property is determined: the replacement cost of the property within a reasonable time following the theft or the market value of the property at the place and time of the offense.

Degrees of Petit Theft in Florida

Petit theft in the first-degree is also known as a first-degree misdemeanor under Florida law.  When an individual steals property valued at $100.00 but less than $750.00, unless the property was stolen was taken from a dwelling as defined in s. 810.011(2), he or she has committed first-degree misdemeanor petit theft. First-degree misdemeanor petit theft is penalized with up to one year in the county jail and a fine of up to $1,000.00. 

Petit Theft that involves stolen property valued at less than $100.00 is called "petit theft in the second degree."  Second-degree petit theft is also known as a second-degree misdemeanor.  Second-degree misdemeanor petit theft is punished in Florida with a jail sentence of 60 days or less. Moreover, the judge could assess a fine of up to $500.00.

Florida prosecutors usually try to seek the most severe charges against the accused for which probable cause exists.  Under Florida law, prosecutors may charge the current theft charge as a first-degree misdemeanor if the accused has prior theft convictions.  If the accused has two prior theft convictions, the prosecutor may seek a third-degree felony charge.

Collateral Consequences of a Conviction for Petit Theft Under Florida Law

An individual convicted of Petit Theft in Florida could receive additional penalties as outlined in Florida's criminal theft statutes. The penalties are civil by nature and not criminal.  For example, any individual convicted of theft in Florida may have his or her driver's license suspended for a first offense. In Florida, license suspension is automatic for subsequent theft crime convictions.  The driver's license suspension is capped at six months for a first time conviction by the Florida Department of Highway Safety.  A defendant convicted for a subsequent theft crime could lose their driver's license for a period on up to one year.  Offenders under 18-years-of-age could face a license suspension instead of being committed to the Department of Juvenile Justice.

Florida law also imposes civil liability on the individual convicted of a theft crime. Under Florida law, the individual who is convicted of theft (or the parent or legal guardian of a person under 18-years-of-age) may be found liable for the loss to the victim. In Florida, the victim may claim money damages for three-times the actual value of the stolen property or up to $200.00.  In addition, the victim of theft could seek a a civil trial award, attorney’s fees and costs of litigation.

The victim is required to follow a specific procedure to win civil damages for theft. The theft victim is required to file a demand letter upon the accused thief at least 30 days prior to filing a civil lawsuit in court. The accused may avoif civil liability by paying the sum demanded by the victim. The victim will be required to provide a release from liability, in writing, to the alleged offender.  A payment of a civil debt is not an admission of guilt.  However, it can help resolve the criminal case with a disposition is not a conviction. It is important that you retain an experienced petit theft defense lawyer in Florida prior to making any statements about allegations made against you.

A conviction for a criminal offense in any court in the United States, even for petit theft, might result in immigration consequences. Any non-citizen convicted of petit theft in Florida might permit the government to deny citizenship, deny re-entry into the U.S., seek removal proceedings,

Shoplifting Offenses in Florida

Shoplifting is often charged as a "petit theft offense in Florida," as long as the value of the property taken does not exceed $300.00. If the value of the property stolen exceeds $300.00, then the criminal case will be charged as a felony.

The penalties for a shoplifting (retail theft) coviction are the same as Petit Theft unless the offender has prior shoplifting convictions on their record. In that case, Florida Statutes Section 812.015(2) requires the court to punish the defendant more harshly than if the crime was a first offense. The judge will typically order the accused to pay a larger fine and perform community service as a component of the punishment for shoplifting.

Transit Fare Evasion or Theft Offenses

“Transit fare evasion” happens when an individual unlawfully refuses to pay the correct fare for transportation prodided on a mass transit vehicle, or to avoid payment of said fare, or to enter any mass transit facility or vehicle by gate, door, or passageway except through the entrance provided for fare-paying passengers, and shall constitute petit theft.

Florida Statute Section 812.014 - Theft Crimes Explained

In Florida, an individual commits the crime of theft if he or she intentionally uses or obtains, or tries to use or obtain another person's property with intention of either permanently or temporarily:

  • Depriving the owner his or her right to the property or to receive benefit from their property.
  • Appropriate another person's property for his or her own use or for the use of any other individual who is not entitled to use the property.

Florida Statute Section 812.014(2)(a)1 - Grand Theft Criminal Offenses

In Florida, an offender commits second-degree felony Grand Theft when the property taken: 

  • has a value of $100,000 or more; or
  • is a semitrailer deployed by a law enforcement; or 
  • the property stolen is cargo valued at $50,000; or
  • more that has entered the stream of interstate; or
  • intrastate commerce from the shipper’s loading platform to the consignee’s receiving dock; or
  • If the offender commits any grand theft and:
    • a. In the course of committing the offense the offender uses a motor vehicle as an instrumentality, other than merely as a getaway vehicle, to assist in committing the offense and thereby damages the real property of another; or
    • b. In the course of committing the offense the offender causes damage to the real or personal property of another in excess of $1,000, the offender commits grand theft in the first degree, punishable as a felony of the first degree, as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
      • (b)1. If the property stolen is valued at $20,000 or more, but less than $100,000;
  • The property stolen is cargo valued at less than $50,000 that has entered the stream of interstate or intrastate commerce from the shipper’s loading platform to the consignee’s receiving dock;
  • The property stolen is emergency medical equipment, valued at $300 or more, that is taken from a facility licensed under chapter 395 or from an aircraft or vehicle permitted under chapter 401; or
  • The property stolen is law enforcement equipment, valued at $300 or more, that is taken from an authorized emergency vehicle, as defined in s. 316.003,

Grand theft in the second degree is punishable as a second-degree felony, and is punished according to Florida Statute Sections 775.082, 775.083, or 775.084.

  • First-Degree Felony Grand Theft Penalties: If the property taken has a value of $100,000 or more, Florida Law classifies this crime as a first-degree felony.  A defendant is facing up to 30 years in prison, a maximum fine of $10,000, up to 30 years of probation.
  • Second-Degree Felony Grand Theft Penalties: If the value of the property stolen is between $20,000 and $99,999.  This crime is classified as a second-degree felony under Florida Law, and carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, and up to 15 years of probation.
  • Third-Degree Felony Grand Theft Penalties: If the value of property taken is $300 and less than $20,000, the crime is classified as a third-degree felony punishable with up to 5 years in prison, a maximum fine of $5,000, and up to 5 years of probation.

All degrees of Grand Theft are classified as felonies in Florida. In Florida Grand Theft cases, financial restitution will be required in most cases.  By retaining an experienced Florida theft crimes defense attorney to advocate for you, there may be a possiblily of avoiding prison in combination of restitution to the victim.