Theft Charges in Florida

Florida divides the crime of Theft into two categories and then further separates them by degree:

Definition of Theft

The crime of Theft involves the taking of another person's property with the intent to either temporarily or permanently:

  • Deprive the person of a right to the property or benefit the property provides; or
  • Appropriates the property for personal use or for the use of another person not entitled to the use of the property.

Penalties for Theft

The penalties for the crime of theft depend on either the value of the property taken or on the type of property taken.

Generally though, Grand Theft involves the taking of property valued at more than $300 and is punishable as a felony; additionally, the degree of the felony increases as the value of the property taken increases.

Petit Theft involves the taking of property valued less than $300 and is punishable as a misdemeanor.

Defenses to Theft

In addition to the pretrial defenses and trial defenses that can be raised in any criminal case, specific defenses to the crime of 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 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 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 Theft that a defendant abandoned the attempt to commit the 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 Theft, involuntary abandonment is not a defense. The distinguishing characteristic between the two is the reason for abandoning the theft. [5]

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

Contact Criminal Defense Lawyer Richard Hornsby

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

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


  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)