Tampa Petit Theft Lawyer
What is Petty Theft in Florida?
Under Florida Statute 812.014, Petit Theft is one of the most commonly prosecuted theft crimes and can be charged as Petit Theft under $100, which is deemed a second degree misdemeanor, or Petit Theft of items valued between $100-$300, which is deemed a first degree misdemeanor.
The term shoplifting means to steal merchandise from a retail establishment by hiding the items and walking out of the store or attempting to walk out of the store. The crime of Petit Theft deals with the unlawful taking of property worth less than $300 and many shoplifting offenses often are charged as petit theft.
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Proving Petit Theft Charges
To prove the crime of Petit Theft, the State must be able to prove that you intended to take something that did not belong to you from a store, without paying for it, and that you did in fact take the item, or attempted to remove the item, from the store. This can include the concealment of merchandise as well as returning stolen merchandise or switching item labels.
In other words, the State must be able to prove:
- Deprive the person of a right to the property or benefit of the property; or
- Appropriate the property for personal use or for the use of another person not entitled to the use of the property.
There are various means a prosecutor can use to provide evidence of shoplifting or retail theft. Surveillance video from store cameras, statements and admissions made by the individual being accused, testimony from employees at the store, and testimony of other customers in the store can all be utilized to bolster the State's claim against you in a Petit Theft case.
What are the Penalties for Petty Theft in Florida?
The penalties and conviction for the crime of petit theft depend on the value of the items taken. In Florida, petit theft can be charged in first and second degrees.
Petit Theft 1st Degree can be charged if the stolen property is worth more than $100 but less than $300. Petit theft 1st degree is punishable by:
Up to one year in jail
A fine of up to $1,000
Petit Theft 2nd Degree can be charged if the stolen property is worth less than $100. Petit Theft 2nd Degree is punishable by up to:
Up to sixty days in jail
A fine of up to $500.
Additionally, Florida law now allows a court to suspend a person's driver's license for a period of up to six months when that person is adjudicated guilty of misdemeanor petit theft. A suspension for a period of one year can be imposed when a person is found guilty of a second offense.
What is a Crime of Dishonesty?
Additionally, petit theft is considered a "crime of dishonesty" in Florida and this could have a serious impact on your reputation and character, employment opportunities, and professional standing. A conviction for any crime of dishonesty can be used against you though out the job application process, during a background check, or if you ever testify in a court of law. Anyone found guilty of theft, including petit theft, is required by Florida law to have their fingerprints taken in court which then become public record.
Defense for Petit Theft in Florida
Each case is different and an attorney can often raise defenses on your behalf to contest a petit theft charge. Examples of defenses include but are not limited to:
A theft charge is a severe matter and not every case will have a solid defense. Luckily, many counties in Florida offer "diversion" programs for a first arrest. These programs are managed by the State Attorney's Office to try and keep certain cases out of court.
What are in Florida's Diversion Programs?
Upon agreeing to enter a diversion program, you must complete certain conditions including performing community service, paying court costs, and participating in a shoplifting prevention class. If the alleged victim in the case, or the store where the merchandise was stolen, is against your case being moved out of a disposition in court, or if you have anything on your record that would disqualify you from the program such as a conviction or a previous diversion program, you may not be eligible for the program.
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