Do You Need a Lawyer for Petit Theft Charges in Florida?
The state of Florida considers a crime “theft” when a person unlawfully takes or uses someone’s property with a criminal intent. That means that you must have knowingly obtained or used or endeavored to obtain or use someone else’s property with the intent to permanently or temporarily deprive them of their right to that property (Florida Statute Section 812.014).
Petit theft, especially as a first-time offense, may not appear to have overly harsh penalties, but that does not mean that you should negotiate with the prosecution without an attorney. Even if you plan to plead guilty, an attorney can ensure you get the best deal for that plea.
The Classifications of Petit Theft
Petit theft is broken down into two classifications: second degree and first degree. The punishments for these include:
- Petit Theft of the Second Degree – This is the lowest offense level of petit theft. If the property’s value is less than $100, you are guilty of petit theft in the second degree. This is a misdemeanor offense under Florida Statute Section 812.014. If convicted of this misdemeanor crime, the sentence cannot be more than 60 days and the fine cannot exceed $500.
- Petit Theft of the First Degree – If the property is valued at $100 or higher, but less than $300, you have committed petit theft of the first degree which is also punished as a misdemeanor offense. The conviction can result in a term of one year in jail and a fine of no more than $1,000 under Florida Statute 77.082 and 77.083.
If you are adjudicated guilty of petit theft, your driver’s license can also be suspended for up to six months for the first conviction and up to one year for subsequent offenses.
Defense to a Petit Theft Charge is Key
A conviction is all it takes to generate a criminal history – and once you have established a criminal record, it may become more difficult to negotiate pleas for subsequent offenses in the future or even obtain employment and housing. An attorney will provide you with pretrial defenses as well as trial defenses that can possibly lessen or dismiss the charge. Some defense options can include, but are not limited to:
- Equal Ownership – This means that you are a co-owner of the property you allegedly stole; therefore, you are not guilty of taking the property.
- Good Faith Possession – This means that you did not have the intent to steal. Because Florida statutes require that there is intent, if you can prove that you possessed the property in good faith only and without intent to commit theft, your charges could be reduced or dismissed.
- Valueless Property – In order to be convicted, the property stolen must have a value. Florida law only criminalizes the theft of property and a valid market value must be present in order to establish that property was in fact stolen.
- Abandonment – If the owner of such property abandoned that property voluntarily, you could have your charges dismissed.
If you have been arrested for petit theft, you most certainly need criminal representation. The Armstrong Law Group, P.A. can assist you with your pending criminal case. Call 904-356-8618 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.