Petit Theft Charges in Florida: What You Need to Know

What is the Crime of Petit Theft in Tampa, Florida?

In Tampa, Florida, “petit theft” is the name for the crime where a person steals under $300 worth of goods from a person or place of business.

What is the Punishment for Petit Theft?

The punishment will depend upon the value of the item stolen. If the value is under $100, the defendant will be charged with a second degree misdemeanor offense, punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a fine of $500.

If the value is between $100 and $300, the charge will be a first degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. If the accused has two or more prior convictions for petit theft, he or she will be charged with a third degree felony offense, punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.

What Must the State Prove?

Pursuant to Florida’s standard jury instructions for this crime, in order for the State to obtain a conviction they must prove that the accused individual:

  1. Knowingly took possession of, or carried away, merchandise from the store; or
  2. Altered or removed a label or price tag from the merchandise; or
  3. Transferred merchandise from one container to another; or
  4. Removed a shopping cart from a merchant’s place of business; and
  5. The act was done with the intention of depriving the owner of possession, use, benefit, or full retail value of the merchandise/shopping cart.

These elements must be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt” at a trial in order for the State to obtain a conviction.

What are the Defenses to Petit Theft?

A person charged with petit theft has several options and should always consult with an attorney prior to the arraignment (the first court hearing in the case.) It is never advisable for an individual to simply “plead guilty” because petit theft is a crime of dishonesty which may have consequences that impact the defendant’s life for years to come.

Even if the defendant is “caught red handed,” his or her attorney may be able to get the individual entered into a diversion program whereby he or she completes a probation-like program in exchange for all charges being dismissed. Other options include a plea deal or taking the case to trial where the State may not be able to prove all elements of the crime.

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