With rising inflation and the increased costs of paying for necessities, it can be easy to justify shoplifting or leaving a restaurant without paying for a meal. After all, businesses likely have insurance to reimburse them for theft. If you think this way, you are not alone. Every day on the news, there’s another story about theft.
Did you know that economic, theft and property crimes are some of Florida’s most commonly prosecuted crimes? In this blog post, we will focus specifically on petit theft. Though it might seem minor, petit theft is a misdemeanor offense that can carry severe penalties, including jail time and fines.
With over 30 years of experience defending clients against all types of theft charges, West Palm Beach theft defense lawyer Ronald S. Chapman fights for clients facing misdemeanor and felony theft charges. Call us today at (561) 832-4348, so we can begin to fight for you.
What is Petit Theft Under Florida Law?
According to Florida Statutes, petit theft occurs if the property stolen is valued at $100 or more, but less than $750. The theft does not have to occur in a store. The word "petit" is taken from the French word "small." Petit theft is also known as a “crime of dishonesty.”
Any conviction can leave you with a permanent criminal record. Depending on the facts of the case, there may also be enhanced sentences for this crime. A petit theft conviction may also impact your ability to obtain employment, a professional license, entry to the military, college or post-graduate school. There’s nothing “small” about a petit theft conviction when it comes to the damage it can do to your life.
Examples of Petit Theft
Some common examples of petit theft include:
- Stealing merchandise from a store
- Leaving a restaurant without paying for your meal (frequently referred to as a “dine-and-dash)
- Switching out a price tag on an item to pay less than it costs
- Sneaking into a movie theater without paying
- Borrowing something belonging to someone else with the intention of not returning it
- Stealing cash from another person
Petit Theft – Classifications and Penalties
In Florida, the penalties for petit theft will vary according to the value of the property stolen, as well as any theft record of the accused.
||Value of Property/Previous Conviction
|Second Degree Misdemeanor (petit theft in the second degree)
||Property at issue is valued at less than $100, and first-time offense
||Up to 60 days in jail, six months probation, or a $500 fine
|First Degree Misdemeanor (petit theft in the first degree)
||Property at issue is valued at more than $100, but less than $750, and one previous petit theft conviction
||Up to one year in jail, 12 months probation, or a $1000 fine
|Third Degree Felony
||If two or more convictions of any theft offense
||Up to five years in jail, five years probation, or a $5,000 fine
Additionally, Florida law now allows a court to suspend your driver's license for up to six months when you are found guilty of misdemeanor petit theft. A one-year suspension can be imposed if you are found guilty of a second offense.
Defenses for Petit Theft Charges
Your theft defense attorney will provide an appropriate defense tailored to your case. Some of the possible defenses available in Florida include:
- Lack of Intent: This defense applies if you had no intention of taking goods or service without paying for it. Your theft lawyer will have to build evidence and explain why theft was not intended, such as through proof that payment was planned but never completed due to some error.
- False Accusation: This occurs when you’ve been wrongfully accused of theft by another party due to misidentification, mistaken identity, or other false claims. Your theft defense attorney can help prove innocence by building a case that demonstrates you were not present at the scene of theft or any other place where theft may have occurred.
- Claim of Right: This defense applies if you believed you had a right to take an item without paying for it due to some verbal agreement, trust-based relationship, or other legal cause. Your theft lawyer can work to explain why this belief was reasonable under the circumstances and help prove innocence in court.
All theft charges should be taken seriously and require experienced legal representation to ensure your rights are protected throughout the entire process. Your theft lawyer can help you understand your options and provide a solid legal defense to receive the best possible outcome in your case.
West Palm Beach, Florida Petit Theft Attorney Ronald S. Chapman, P.A. Fights for Clients Facing Misdemeanor and Felony Theft Charges
With more than 30 years of experience defending clients against theft charges, criminal defense attorney Ronald S. Chapman knows what to expect during each stage of your case and can provide you with the best possible defense against your petit theft charges.
If you face petit theft charges, jail time could be on the table. Having an experienced theft lawyer by your side can help with your sentencing, plea agreements, and raising any potential defenses. We can also represent you at all court appearances and talk to the judge and opposing counsel on your behalf. Call us to schedule a meeting at (561) 832-4348.
Copyright © 2022. Ronald S. Chapman, P.A. All rights reserved.
The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting based on any information included in or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country, or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.
Ronald S. Chapman, P.A.
400 Clematis St., Suite 206
West Palm Beach, FL 33401