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Florida Petit Theft Laws and Penalties

Written by:Julian Stroleny PortraitJulian Stroleny
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Petit theft — or petty theft — in Florida usually involves a relatively minor amount of money or property, but the consequences of a conviction can be serious. If you are convicted of petit theft, you may be saddled with a permanent criminal record that impacts your life for years to come.

You need an award-winning criminal defense attorney fighting for your rights if you are charged with Florida theft crimes. Julian Stroleny is an accomplished Florida criminal defense lawyer recognized as a Super Lawyers Rising Star from 2019 to 2023. He also was named an AV Preeminent attorney in 2022 by Martaindale-Hubble. For a legal consultation, contact Stroleny Law, P.A., today by calling (786) 481-4129.

About Petit Theft In Florida

In Florida, theft is classified as petit or grand theft, depending on the type and value of the property stolen. Florida Statute Section 812.014 states petit theft involves stealing property from a person or entity worth less than $750. Petit theft is usually related to shoplifting, but it doesn’t have to happen in a retail store. You could face increased penalties if you have previous theft convictions. 

Elements of Proof for a Petit Theft Conviction 

The prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant committed petit theft. Florida law states these facts must be established: 

  • The defendant knowingly or illegally obtained or used the alleged victim’s property.
  • They did so with the intent to deprive the person of their property or any benefit from the property.

The state will use various tools to prove their petit theft case against you. The prosecutor may use loss prevention officer testimony, video and photo surveillance, witness statements, receipts, business records, co-defendant testimony, and items taken. 

Possible Petit Theft Penalties and Consequences 

Petit theft in Florida is usually considered a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail. However, alternative sentencing may be available to avoid jail time for petit theft, depending on the circumstances. There also are times when petit theft can be charged as a felony. The crime is classified and punishable in the following ways: 

  • Petit theft of property valued at less than $100 is a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to two months in jail and a fine of up to $500. 
  • Theft of property valued at $100 to less than $300 is a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. 
  • Petit theft is a third-degree felony if you have a prior theft conviction. This is punishable by a maximum of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

If the victim of the theft crime was 65 or older, there could be enhanced penalties: 

  • Stolen property valued between $300 and $10,000, the offense will be a third-degree felony
  • Property valued between $10,000 and $50,000, it is a second-degree felony
  • Property valued over $50,000, it is a first-degree felony

Criminal penalties are only part of what you face with a petty theft conviction. You will have a criminal record that may be difficult to expunge or seal. This means you could face difficulty securing employment, renting a house or apartment, or attending college.

Furthermore, being convicted of petit theft also can lead to license suspension. You could have your license suspended for a first offense. License suspension is required for subsequent theft offenses. The driver’s license suspension is capped at 180 days for a first petit theft offense and a year for a second offense. Also, a criminal conviction in Florida can result in adverse immigration consequences. 

Florida Shoplifting Offenses

Shoplifting is typically charged as petit theft in Florida if the property value is not more than $300. If the property’s value exceeds $300, it may be charged as a felony. 

The prosecutor can file felony petit theft charges for shoplifting if the person committed five or more retail thefts in one month. If the party steals 10 to 19 items, it is a third-degree felony. If the party steals 20 or more items, it may be charged as a second-degree felony. Anyone who uses or attempts to use an anti-shoplifting device in a store can be convicted of a third-degree felony. 

Furthermore, someone who commits petit theft or shoplifting in Florida can be held civilly liable as follows: 

  • Paying three times the value of the property, or $200, whichever is greater
  • Reimbursement of the person’s attorney fees and court costs

At least a month before filing a civil liability action, the victim must give the offender a written demand to pay. If you comply with the demand, the victim must provide a written release. 

Pretrial Intervention For Petty Theft

Any petit theft charge in Florida is severe. Luckily, most counties in Florida have diversion programs for initial offenses, such as Pretrial Intervention or PTI. 

PTI is a way to deal with a petit theft case without making a plea or going to trial. PTI is an agreement between the accused and the prosecutor. The state agrees to dismiss the petty theft charge in exchange for you completing specific conditions within a certain period. 

Pretrial intervention for petit theft usually involves community service, financial responsibility classes, restitution, and other requirements intended to rehabilitate you and ensure you don’t commit future theft crimes. A case being resolved through PTI is diverted from the regular court. However, you could be disqualified from pretrial intervention if the alleged victim opposes your participation or if you were previously convicted of any crime.

If it’s your first petit theft offense, it’s possible you could receive pretrial intervention — but it isn’t guaranteed. You should retain an experienced criminal defense attorney to ensure the best result for your case. If you attempt to handle your case, there’s a good chance you will be convicted. If you have a previous criminal violation, contact an attorney immediately.  

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Petit Theft Defenses

Your attorney can use several possible defenses against your petit theft charge, including: 

Equal Ownership

If you are a co-owner of the property in question, it is not theft unless the other owner makes a complaint and possesses a superior legal interest. 

Good Faith Possession

Florida law states that proof is required that the property was taken with the intent to steal. It’s a valid defense if you took possession of the property in good faith and believed it was yours. 

Mere Presence

Mere presence at the crime scene or knowledge of an ongoing crime isn’t enough to convict you. If you go with a friend to the store and that person commits petit theft, you can’t be convicted unless there is proof that you did something to further the act. 

Valueless Property

Property that has no value cannot be stolen. For example, taking a pile of worthless newspapers from the back of a store can’t be prosecuted as a crime. The property must have some kind of market value for a crime to have been committed. 

Voluntary Abandonment

It’s a potential defense if you abandon the attempt to engage in petit theft. If your conscience told you not to commit the crime and you abandoned the attempt, it could be a defense in court. 

Statute of Limitations for Petit Theft

Florida Statute 812.035(10) states a five-year statute of limitations for petit theft crimes. This means the state of Florida can prosecute you for a petit theft crime up to five years after you allegedly committed the offense. If you have been charged with a petit theft crime, it’s imperative to contact a theft crimes attorney immediately to begin building your defense. 

Speak to a Theft Crimes Defense Attorney

Being accused of petit theft can be scary. While the law is supposed to be impartial, you could be at a severe disadvantage if you face the tough Florida criminal justice system alone. Instead, you should work with a top-notch criminal defense law firm. Get in touch with Stroleny Law, P.A., today.

You can count on award-winning criminal defense attorney Julian Stroleny to provide a robust defense against petit theft charges.Attorney Stroleny has over 10 years of proven legal experience and was named a 2022 Client Champion by Martindale-Hubble. Attorney Stroleny also has a perfect 10.0 rating from Avvo, so you know you will receive an outstanding legal defense for a Florida theft charge. He has defended hundreds of clients to help them avoid criminal penalties. Contact Stroleny Law, P.A., today at (786) 481-4129 for assistance.

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