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Petit Theft Charges in Florida

If accused of Petit Theft in Florida, you need to know the:

Definition of Petit Theft

The crime of Petit Theft, sometimes referred to as Petty Theft, involves the unlawful taking of property worth less than $300.

To prove the crime of Petit Theft, the State must prove that you took property from another person with the intent to:

  • 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.

The value of the property taken determines whether the crime is:

Penalties for Petit Theft

The penalties for the crime of Petit Theft depend on the value of the property taken.

Petit Theft of the First Degree

It is considered Petit Theft of the First Degree if:

  • The value of the property taken is worth less than $300, but more than $100; or
  • You have a prior theft conviction.

If convicted of Petit Theft of the First Degree, a judge can impose any combination of the following penalties:

  • One year in jail,
  • One year of probation, or
  • A fine of up to a $1,000.

Petit Theft of the Second Degree

If the value of the property taken is worth less than $100, the crime is considered Petit Theft of the Second Degree.

If convicted of Petit Theft of the Second Degree, a judge can impose any combination of the following penalties:

  • Six (6) months in jail,
  • Six (6) months of probation, or
  • A fine of up to a $500.

Driver's License Suspension

If you are adjudicated guilty of Petit Theft, your driver's license can be suspended up to:

  • Six months upon a first conviction.
  • One (1) year for each subsequent conviction.

Defenses to Petit Theft

In addition to the pretrial defenses and trial defenses that can be raised in any criminal case, specific defenses to the crime of Petit Theft are:

  1. Equal Ownership
  2. Good Faith Possession
  3. Valueless Property
  4. Voluntary Abandonment

Equal Ownership

A co-owner of property cannot be convicted of Petit Theft for taking the property unless the complaining co-owner had a superior legal interest in the property. [1]

Good Faith Possession

Under Florida law, the crime of Petit Theft requires proof of a taking with the intent to steal. A person who takes possession of an item with the good faith belief in the right to the property lacks the requisite intent to commit theft. As a result, a well-founded belief in one's right to allegedly stolen property constitutes a complete defense to the crime of Petit Theft. [2]

Valueless Property

Simply put, it is impossible to steal trash because Florida law only criminalizes the stealing of "property."

Property is defined as "anything of value" and the value is the "the market value of property at the time and place of the offense or, if such cannot be satisfactorily ascertained, the cost of replacement of the property within a reasonable time after the offense." [3]

Thus if someone places something by the road, it has become trash that presumably has no value.

Voluntary Abandonment

It is a defense to the crime of Petit Theft that a defendant abandoned the attempt to commit the petit theft under circumstances indicating a complete and voluntary renunciation of the criminal purpose. [4]

Involuntary Abandonment

While voluntary abandonment is a defense to the crime of Petit Theft, involuntary abandonment is not a defense. The distinguishing characteristic between the two is the reason for abandoning the petit theft. [5]

A voluntary abandonment occurs when your conscious, unprompted by encountered circumstances, causes you to withdraw from the attempted petit theft.

On the other hand, an involuntary abandonment occurs when unanticipated circumstances (i.e. belief scheme discovered) causes a person to withdraw from the attempted petit theft.

Contact Criminal Defense Lawyer Richard Hornsby

If you have been arrested or charged with the crime of Petit Theft in Central Florida or the Greater Orlando area, contact Criminal Defense Lawyer Richard Hornsby today.

The initial consultation is free and I am always available to advise you on the proper course of action that can be taken.

References

  1. Russ v. State, 830 So. 2d 268 (Fla. 1st DCA 2002)
  2. Bartlett v. State, 765 So. 2d 799 (Fla. 1st DCA 2000)
  3. Holloway v. State, 755 So. 2d 169 (Fla. 4th DCA 2000)
  4. Longval v. State, 914 So. 2d 1098 (Fla. 4th DCA 2005)
  5. Carroll v. State, 680 So. 2d 1065 (Fla. 3d DCA 1996)