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Florida Petit Theft Laws

Petit theft might sound like a simple criminal charge, but a conviction can result in jail time, as well as cause lasting disruptions in a person’s life. You deserve to fight the charges against you, and Musca Law can help. Our firm’s attorneys have decades of experience with theft cases, including grand theft and petit theft, and we know what it takes to reduce or eliminate the charges. Contact us today to start the process of protecting your valuable rights.

Definition of Petit Theft in Florida

Petit theft tends to include property of lower value and property that is not included in Florida’s laws on grand theft. Under Florida Statute § 812.014, a theft occurs when someone knowingly obtains or uses — or tries to obtain or use — someone else’s property while intending to deprive the owner of his or her rights to the property or while intending to appropriate the property to someone else.

The value and type of the property at issue is what turns the crime into petit theft versus grand theft. The property involved in petit theft crimes is described in § 812.014, under the statute’s sections on the penalties in the crime. A person can be charged with different levels of petit theft depending on the property at issue, which is discussed more below.

Florida’s Intent Requirement

Florida’s laws on theft use the words “knowingly” and “intent.” This means that a person has to know he or she is taking someone else’s property (not property of his or her own) and has to do so with the intent to steal. If the person does not have knowledge that the property is owned by someone else or does not have criminal intent in using or obtaining the property, petit theft is not an appropriate charge in the case.

Penalties for Petit Theft in Florida

Generally, petit theft is considered a misdemeanor in Florida. A person will typically be charged with a first- or second-degree misdemeanor for petit theft in the state, but there are some circumstances in which petit theft can be charged as a felony. The specific charges filed against a person will depend on the circumstances involved.

  • Second-Degree Misdemeanor – Petit theft can be charged as a second-degree misdemeanor in Florida if the relevant property is not described in § 812.014(2), which is Florida’s law on grand theft. A second-degree misdemeanor in Florida can mean 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.
  • First-Degree Misdemeanor – Petit theft can be charged as a first-degree misdemeanor in Florida if the relevant property is valued at $100 or more but less than $750 and is not taken from a dwelling (defined under Florida law as a building with a roof where people sleep). Petit theft can also be charged as a first-degree misdemeanor in Florida if the defendant has a prior conviction for theft of any kind. A first-degree misdemeanor in Florida can mean a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
  • Third-Degree Felony – Petit theft can be charged as a third-degree felony if the defendant has two or more prior convictions for theft of any kind. A third-degree felony in Florida can mean five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

In addition to the penalties above, a conviction for petit theft at any level will result in suspension of the defendant’s driver’s license. For the first conviction, the defendant will lose his or her license for six months. For any subsequent petit theft convictions, the defendant will lose his or her license for one year.

A petit theft conviction creates a criminal record for a person and is considered a crime of dishonesty in Florida. Having this on your record can inhibit your educational opportunities, your employment opportunities, and your ability to secure certain professional licenses. The combined consequences of a conviction are why we always encourage our clients charged with petit theft to vigorously fight the charges. There is more on the line than you might realize, and you need skilled representation, like the attorneys at Musca Law, on your side.

Defending Against Florida Petit Theft Charges

When you hire legal counsel, your attorney will begin working to uncover all defenses that might be available to refute the allegations against you. Petit theft defenses often include one or more of the following:

  • Lack of intent – Intent is a necessary element to any theft case in Florida. If the prosecution cannot establish that you acted with intent to steal, it has not proved its case against you. Perhaps you left a store with the intent of retrieving your wallet from your car, or perhaps you forgot that an item was in your bag or shopping cart.
  • Mistaken identity – The witnesses in the case might have identified you by mistake, or video from the scene might depict someone who looks similar to you but is not you.
  • Valueless property – If you took something that someone had discarded, such as an item on the side of the road, or you had a good faith belief that the property had been discarded, you can use this as a defense.
  • Abandonment – If you abandoned an attempt to commit petit theft, this can also be raised as a potential defense.

If none of the above circumstances applies to you, this does not mean you cannot beat the charges. Musca Law’s lawyers provide individualized criminal defense services, focused on the specific facts of each case. We understand that every client’s situation is different, and we always work to find the path to the best outcome. We can review your case to begin strategizing the best defense and give you sound legal advice throughout the proceedings. Contact us now for a free case consultation.

Contact Musca Law for a Free Case Consultation

The experienced Florida defense attorneys at Musca Law provide free case consultations and can help you understand your legal options. Do not delay in hiring counsel to protect your rights. Call us now at (888) 484-5057 to schedule your attorney consultation.

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