A petit theft charge is no small matter. The word “petit” (Latin and French in origin, but pronounced like the English “petty”, with much the same meaning) is used to describe thefts of items below a certain value. Petit theft in Florida is a crime that subjects defendants to arrest, prosecution, and possible incarceration. Until October 1st, 2019, petit theft described any theft involving items with a value under $300. Today, petit theft is a theft involving property with a value of less than $750.
Petit theft is a charge that should not be taken lightly, regardless of how small or inexpensive the allegedly stolen item is. If you have been charged with a petit theft or are the parent of a child who has been charged with petit theft, it is important to reach out to an experienced attorney. Finding a Tampa defense attorney with the skill to fight your case can make the difference between walking away free or going to jail after a conviction. The team at Elsea Law Firm, P.A. has the experience and knowledge to defend petit theft charges. If you’re in Hillsborough County, Pinellas County, elsewhere in the Tampa Bay area, call (813) 451-8583 today for your free consultation.
Petit theft is one of the most commonly prosecuted crimes in Florida. Under Florida Statute Section 812.014, a theft occurs when a person knowingly obtaining another’s property with the purpose to permanently or temporarily deprive that person of any benefit of the property. A theft of items below $750 in value is usually considered petit theft. Anything theft involving $750 or more is always considered grand theft, which has even more severe penalties.
Most petit theft charges are separated into two categories: Petit Theft in the First Degree and Petit Theft in the Second Degree. Repeat offenders face increased punishment for theft crimes, and may even face a charge of Felony Petit Theft in certain situations. In order to establish that a petit theft has been committed, the State has to prove every element of the particular crime with which you are charged beyond and to the exclusion of every reasonable doubt- including the element of value. Different circumstances surrounding the alleged theft affect the punishments at stake.
If a person is accused of stealing (most) items for the first time that were worth $100 or more, but less than $750, then the accused will face a first-degree misdemeanor charge. First degree misdemeanors are more serious than second degree misdemeanors and can be punished by up to a year in jail and by a fine of up to $1,000.
If a person is accused of stealing (most) items for the first time that were worth less than $100, then the accused will face a second-degree misdemeanor charge. Second-degree misdemeanors are less serious that first-degree misdemeanors, but the penalties can include a jail sentence of up to 60 days and by a fine of up to $500.
If a person is accused of any of petit theft with two or more prior convictions, the charge becomes a third-degree felony. Third-degree felonies are punishable by up to five years in prison and by a fine of up to $5,000.
Those convicted of completed thefts can expect to be responsible for restitution payable to the victim. Restitution is intended to make the victim whole by compensating them for the loss of value a stolen item results in. Restitution is not applicable in theft charges based on an attempted or incomplete theft, unless property damage is a result of the attempt.
There are two basic ways in which an accusation of petit theft can become more serious “enhanced” charge. The first is if the theft involves an item valued under $750 (typically the grand theft threshold amount) but that is otherwise statutorily protected. Motor vehicles, firearms, fire extinguishers, and stop signs are such items. Those accused of stealing a gun, a car, or other protected property with an established value of less than $750 will still face felony charges. This is why theft of a motor vehicle in Florida, even if it’s a beater worth next to nothing, is always “Grant Theft Auto.” Those who are accused of stealing items worth less than $750 from the dwelling of another, or of stealing over $300 worth of items from law enforcement may also find themselves facing felony charges.
The second way a defendant can face enhanced petit theft charges is based on their criminal record. Section 812.013(3) sets the framework for the operation of this principle. Those who are accused of what would be a second-degree petit theft can face a first-degree petit theft if the State can prove that the accused has a prior conviction for any theft offense. Similarly, those facing what would be a first- or second-degree petit theft charge can face a felony petit theft charge if the State can prove that the accused has two prior convictions for any theft offenses.
Defenses to theft charges are specific to the facts of each case, but may fall into one of several categories. Theft requires and intentional taking or attempt to take property of another. Honest mistakes are not criminal in Florida. Sometimes the value of an item is at issue, especially in first-degree petit theft cases. The State must prove the value of the item or items at issue beyond a reasonable doubt. If items alleged in a charge are old, used, or damaged, a capable defense attorney can help you develop a strategy to address the issue at trial or before trial. Finally, petit theft charges often originate in retail settings. Charges that may be commonly known as shoplifting are subject to certain requirements surrounding the items and the point of purchase. An experience attorney can discuss how caselaw and other legal precedent may affect your particular charge.
If you or a loved one have been charged with petit theft in Hillsborough County or the greater Tampa Bay area, it is imperative that you reach out to a criminal defense attorney for help. Receiving quality advice from a skilled criminal defense attorney can make the difference between serious consequences or walking away with a better outcome. Joel Elsea and the experienced team at Elsea Law Firm, P.A. have the knowledge and proficiency to help with your case. They are ready and prepared to stand in your corner and fight for your freedom. Don’t let a mistake prevent you from excelling in the future. Call (813) 451-8583 today and receive a free consultation regarding your case.