What are the Penalties for Petty Theft in Florida?


In Florida, a person can be charged with two types of theft crimes – petit theft and grand theft. Florida uses the term “petit” (French for small) to cover any theft of property that’s valued below $750. 

You don’t need to settle for a small defense if you’ve been charged with a petit theft crime. No matter how minor you believe the criminal charge is, you need the best representation to fight against the accusations. An experienced Tampa petit theft attorney can evaluate the charges and work towards getting the punishment reduced, dismissed, or even dropped altogether.

Attorney Andrew Buda has extensive knowledge of Florida law as a former prosecutor turned criminal defense attorney. Using his experience working for the prosecution, Andrew Buda will be able to tailor your defense to withstand anything they throw at you. To schedule a free consultation with Buda Law, call 813-322-2832 today. 

What is Petty Theft?

Florida law separates theft crimes into two categories: grand theft and petit theft. The value of the property stolen will determine if the person faces grand theft charges or petit theft charges. The theft offense a person will be charged with will also depend on the type of property that was stolen, if a weapon was used, and other extenuating circumstances surrounding the crime. 

Property theft from a person or business with a value below $750 is considered petit theft. Since petit theft is the lesser of the two theft offenses, it’s commonly associated with retail theft or shoplifting. However, it doesn’t have to happen in a store. 

Florida Petit Theft Laws

Florida Statute 812.014 outlines the laws and punishments for both petit theft and grand theft offenses. This statute considers theft as knowingly using or obtaining another person’s property or business. The person will be charged with a petit crime if that property is valued at $750 or less. 

To be convicted of a petit theft crime, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt the following elements:

  1. You knowingly and unlawfully acquired or used another person’s property;
  2. You did this with intent to either temporarily or permanently:
    1. Deprive that person of their right to their property; or 
    2. Take the property for your own personal benefit or for someone else’s who is not entitled to it

A petit theft charge will depend on the prosecution proving the defendant acted with criminal intent when taking the other person’s property. In order to prove this, they will use witness statements and other evidence to show the defendant’s intent.  

Working with an experienced Tampa criminal defense attorney like Andrew Buda can give you your best chance at avoiding harsh punishments for your petit theft charges. Don’t let the term “petit” make you think your charges are not severe enough to warrant legal representation. Even misdemeanor petit theft offenses deserve a proper defense. 

Florida Statute Section 812.014

Florida Statute Section 812.014 describes in great detail actions that can warrant a petit theft or grand theft charge. As stated above, the statute considers theft the act of unlawfully taking another person’s property for their own use or personal gain. The difference between grand theft and petit theft mainly lies in the property’s value. The term “property” under this statute is a broad term that covers personal property, real property, property benefits and rights, and both public and private services.

Examples of petit theft include:

  • Taking another person’s wallet from a table.
  • Taking a box of cereal from a grocery store.
  • Purchasing something using another person’s account information without their permission (must be valued below $750 in order to fall under petit theft).

Petit theft in Florida is the lesser of the two theft crimes and is usually charged as a misdemeanor offense. If the individual has any prior convictions or the property stolen is valued over $750, the charge can be increased to a grand theft crime, which is a felony in Florida

Penalties for Petit Theft in Florida

As we mentioned above, a petit theft charge is typically considered a misdemeanor and can be punishable by up to 12 months in jail. However, punishment for petit theft can often be switched out for alternative, lesser penalties depending on the severity of the charge and any prior theft convictions. In other cases, the person can face felony charges for their petit theft offense. 

Second-Degree Petit Theft in FL

The stolen property must be valued below $100 to be considered a second-degree misdemeanor. A second-degree petit theft charge is punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a maximum fine of $500. 

First-Degree Petit Theft in FL

If the property value is equal to $100 but less than $300, it’s considered a first-degree misdemeanor. Individuals can face a maximum jail sentence of one year and a fine of up to $1,000. 

Felony Petit Theft in FL

Individuals with two or more previous petit theft convictions will be charged with a third-degree felony. A felony petit theft offense is punishable by a maximum prison sentence of five years and up to $5,000 in fines. This felony charge can be moved up to grand theft under certain circumstances. 

What Are Some Defenses for Petit Theft Charges?

An experienced criminal defense attorney will evaluate the petit theft charges brought against you and create a defense strategy to fight the prosecution’s case. Below are some common defense strategies that your attorney may use to disprove a petit theft charge:

  • The stolen property was not found in the defendant’s possession.
  • The video surveillance footage is bad quality, making it difficult to identify the accused as the person in the footage.
  • The defendant was a customer who accidentally left the store.
  • A co-defendant set up the defendant.
  • Mistaken identity.
  • Incorrect accusations.
  • The price tags were altered or removed by a previous customer.
  • The customer forgot the items were in the buggy or stroller.
  • Falsely identified and accused by store security.
  • Momentary deprivation of property.

Your attorney’s defense strategy will heavily depend on the circumstances surrounding the accused crimes, the supposed stolen property, and more. The possible petit theft defenses listed above are just some examples of how your criminal defense attorney can dispute the evidence and charges brought against you to help you avoid a criminal conviction. 

Why You Need an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer If You’re Facing Petit Theft Charges in Florida

Anyone facing petit theft in Florida is more likely to have their punishments reduced or dismissed when they hire a criminal defense attorney to represent them. While you may think the prosecution has substantial evidence against you, it’s always in your best interest to seek legal representation, even for a second or first-degree misdemeanor charge. A criminal conviction on your record can make buying a house, obtaining employment, and even acquiring a loan extremely difficult. Never take the chances of defending yourself against any type of criminal charge, as you’re more likely going to face the maximum punishments and fines if you’re convicted. 

An experienced petit theft attorney can work towards getting your charges dropped if they’re on the less severe side. For example, a minor retail theft offense may be eligible for participation in a diversion program. If your charge qualifies for diversion, you can work towards getting the charges dropped upon completing the requirements. If the theft offense is more serious, an attorney can still plea bargain, resulting in a lesser sentence or dismissal of charges. 

Call Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney Andrew Buda of Buda Law Today For a Free Consultation Regarding Your Case

Petit theft in Florida is a serious offense punishable by jail time, expensive fines, community service, and more. Even though it’s usually considered a misdemeanor, taking the charges seriously is essential, as they can remain on your permanent criminal record. When facing a first-degree misdemeanor or other theft charges, you need an experienced Tampa theft crimes attorney representing you. 

Former prosecuting attorney Andrew Buda has extensive knowledge of criminal law and knows what you’re up against when fighting a petit theft conviction. As your attorney, he will craft a strong defense against the charges the prosecution accuses you of and dismantle the evidence they have against you. When facing even a petit criminal charge, you want the best criminal defense attorney in Tampa to represent you. To discuss your petit theft charges with attorney Andrew Buda, call Buda Law at 813-322-2832 today.