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When Can You Be Charged With Theft?

February 24, 2024
By The Wiseman Law Firm

Theft might seem like a straightforward concept – taking something that doesn’t belong to you. Yet, when it comes to the law, things get a bit more complicated. There’s a whole range of actions that can lead to being charged with theft, and it’s not always just about physically taking something off a shelf. Imagine you found something valuable and decided to keep it, or maybe you borrowed something and forgot to return it. Could these situations be considered theft? Well, it depends on a few factors, like intent and the circumstances around how you ended up with the item. 

Petit theft, grand theft, and shoplifting represent three tiers of theft offenses, each defined by the value of the stolen property and, in some cases, the manner in which the theft was carried out. Petit theft, often known as petty theft, involves items of lesser value and is typically treated as a misdemeanor, carrying lighter penalties. Grand theft concerns the theft of more valuable property and is considered a felony, leading to more severe legal repercussions. Shoplifting, while specifically related to the act of stealing from a retail establishment, may be petit or grand theft, depending on the value of the merchandise taken. At The Wiseman Law Firm, we can help you understand your changes and craft a strong defense to protect your reputation and freedom.  

What Are Petit Theft Charges? 

In Florida, petit theft charges arise when an individual is accused of stealing property valued at a relatively low amount. Specifically, the state law categorizes theft as petit (sometimes referred to as “petty”) when the value of the stolen property is less than $750. This type of theft is further divided into two degrees: first-degree petit theft for property valued between $100 and $750 and second-degree petit theft for property valued at less than $100.

First-degree petit theft is considered a misdemeanor of the first degree, which can lead to penalties including up to a year in jail, a year of probation, and fines up to $1,000. Second-degree petit theft, on the other hand, is classified as a misdemeanor of the second degree. A conviction for second-degree petit theft can result in up to 60 days in jail, six months of probation, and up to $500 fines.

The distinction between these two levels of petit theft is significant because it directly impacts the severity of the penalties an individual might face. In addition to legal penalties, a conviction for petit theft can have long-term effects on a person’s criminal record, potentially affecting employment opportunities, housing options, and more.

Florida law takes theft seriously, even at the petit level, and those facing such charges should consider seeking legal advice. A knowledgeable defense attorney can provide guidance on the legal process, help challenge the charges or evidence presented, and work towards minimizing the potential penalties. Whether negotiating plea deals, arguing for reduced charges, or fighting for a dismissal based on insufficient evidence, a skilled lawyer can be invaluable in navigating the complexities of petit theft charges in Florida.

When Can You Be Charged With Grand Theft? 

In Florida, grand theft charges come into play when the value of the stolen property exceeds the threshold set for petit theft, specifically when it’s valued at $750 or more. Grand theft is a felony offense, and, unlike petit theft, it carries significantly harsher penalties, which escalate with the value of the property involved. The classification of grand theft is divided into three degrees, depending on the value and sometimes the type of property stolen.

Third-Degree Grand Theft

Third-degree grand theft applies to theft of property valued between $750 and $20,000, theft of a will or other legal document, or theft of a firearm, among other specified items. Conviction can result in up to five years imprisonment, five years of probation, and fines up to $5,000.

Second-Degree Grand Theft

For property valued between $20,000 and $100,000, theft involving emergency medical equipment valued at $300 or more, or cargo valued less than $50,000, the offense is considered a second-degree felony. Penalties include up to 15 years imprisonment, 15 years of probation, and $10,000 in fines.

First-Degree Grand Theft

The most severe classification, first-degree grand theft, involves property valued at over $100,000, cargo valued over $50,000, or property causing damage to the owner exceeding $1,000 during the theft. Convicted individuals may face up to 30 years in prison, with similar terms for probation and fines up to $10,000.

The severity of the charges reflects the state’s stance on protecting property rights and deterring significant property crimes. Beyond the immediate legal consequences, a grand theft conviction can profoundly impact one’s life, including potential employment challenges, loss of civil rights, and the stigma associated with a felony record.

Given the stakes involved, individuals facing grand theft charges in Florida are strongly encouraged to seek legal representation. An experienced criminal defense attorney can navigate the complexities of the legal system, challenge the prosecution’s evidence, negotiate for lesser charges or penalties, and advocate for the defendant’s rights with the goal of achieving the best possible outcome.

Speak With the Theft Defense Lawyer at The Wiseman Law Firm

Facing charges of petit or grand theft in Florida can be a turning point in your life, carrying the weight of potential jail time, hefty fines, and long-term consequences on your personal and professional reputation. A seasoned criminal defense lawyer at The Wiseman Law Firm can provide the comprehensive legal guidance and defense you need to navigate the complexities of the legal system. With a deep understanding of Florida’s theft laws and a commitment to safeguarding your rights, we can challenge the evidence against you, argue for reduced charges or penalties, and tirelessly work towards the most favorable outcome. 

Call (407) 420-4647 or fill out a contact form today for a free consultation.

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