petit theft explained in floridaIn Florida, petit theft is known as a “crime of dishonesty.” Any conviction can leave the defendant with a permanent criminal record. Depending on the facts of the case, there may also be enhanced sentences for this crime. In most cases, petit theft is not as serious as grand theft, but its punishments could lead to life-changing consequences. 

What Is Petit Theft?

According to Florida Statute 812.014, petit theft occurs when “an alleged offender knowingly obtains or uses the property of another party.” With this crime, the defendant must have an intent to “temporarily or permanently deprive that party of the right to the property.”

For Florida prosecutors to prove their case, they must show beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant:

  • Knowingly and unlawfully obtain property belonging to the victim
  • Had criminal intent

The biggest element is proving criminal intent by the offender. The state must demonstrate that the defendant carried out an intentional action to steal from the victim. 


Classifications of Petit Theft

If the total value of the property is less than $300, then the offender faces a petit theft charge. Many of these charges stem from shoplifting offenses. Petit theft is often classified as a misdemeanor. However, some facts of the case can raise the charge to a felony. 

With petit theft, the value of the property and any other previous convictions will impact the charges against a defendant. Some of these charges include:

  • Petit Theft in the 2nd Degree: When the property is valued less than $100, and it is a first-time offense, the defendant is charged with a second-degree misdemeanor.
  • Petit Theft in the 1st Degree: The property stolen must be between $100 and $300. If the individual was convicted of a previous petit theft crime, then the second offense is elevated to a first-degree misdemeanor.
  • Third-Degree Felony: If the offender was convicted of petit theft two or more times, he or she would be charged with a third-degree felony. Depending on the circumstances, this charge could be elevated to grand theft. 

Penalties for Petit Theft in Florida

If convicted of petit theft in Florida, the penalties are severe. Some of these penalties include:

  • Second-Degree Misdemeanor: A fine of up to $500 and up to 60 days in jail.
  • First-Degree Misdemeanor: One year in jail and a $1,000 fine 
  • Third-Degree Felony: A fine of $5,000 and five years in jail. 

However, there can be additional punishments for the alleged offender. Under Florida Statute Section 812.0155, your driver’s license might be affected. For the first conviction, his or her driver’s license is suspended for six months. After that, it is an additional year for every guilty conviction. 

Any petit theft will be noted on the offender’s criminal record. This offense can cause issues with employment, education, and housing opportunities.

Defenses for Petit Theft

In some cases, it could be an honest mistake that leads to petit theft charges. Some other possible defenses for this crime include:

  • No criminal intent: If the individual left a store to retrieve a wallet or forgot about a product in the shopping cart, that does not show criminal intent. Some people accidentally leave the premises while in possession of the unpaid property.
  • Misidentification: An alleged offender might have been misidentified or confused with the actual suspect. Many witnesses do not get a good look at the suspect, and that can lead to misidentification. 
  • Lack of evidence: In certain situations, the party who claims to have property stolen cannot prove the alleged offender took those items. 
  • Equal ownership: If the alleged offender has a legitimate right to the property, it is not considered petit theft. 

Enhanced Penalties

There are enhanced penalties for habitual felony offenses, repeat petit thefts, and thefts involving a victim age 65 or older in the state of Florida.

Habitual felony offender: If the petit theft is a third felony offense, the judge can extend the prison term. The maximum sentence will double for a second- or third-degree felony. Those felonies in the first degree could face a sentence of life in prison

Elderly victim: If the victim was age 65 or older, petit theft carries enhanced penalties, such as: 

  • For property valued between $300 and $10,000, the offense is raised to a felony in the third degree.
  • For property valued between $10,000 and $50,000, the crime is a felony in the second degree.
  • For property valued at over $50,000, petit theft is a first-degree felony. 

Along with that, the offender must pay back restitution to the victim and perform community service.

Speak To an Experienced Criminal Defense Team

Petit theft might seem like a minor crime, but it results in severe penalties if convicted. You can face fines, jail time, or loss of other privileges in the state. It is important to speak to a skilled legal team about your case. Make sure to schedule a consultation with the Orlando criminal defense lawyers at Smith & Eulo.

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