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Petit Theft

Tallahassee Theft attorney

Petit Theft is often referred to as “petty theft.” “Petty” and “Petit” are synonyms meaning small. It is one of those words that everyone knows in the back of their head even if it’s not obvious. It is only natural to assume a small theft will be no big deal, any small consequences coming from a little charge like that won’t really matter.  The reality is very different. Petit theft, sometimes called petty theft or shoplifting, is a misdemeanor, but a conviction could mean time in jail and hefty fines, but the consequences could extend beyond that. A conviction could stay on your criminal record permanently and keep you from getting jobs or housing. The most common way petit theft is committed and charged is in the form of shoplifting. Big stores put a lot of time and resources into securing a conviction in order to prevent future shoplifting.

A little theft charge could mean consequences that are far from “petit”. It should not be taken lightly. If you have been charged with petit theft, don’t shrug it off as minor. An experienced criminal defense attorney can develop an effective defense in your case, and could make the difference between being free or being in jail, under the weight of a big conviction..

Tallahassee Petit Theft Lawyer

The attorneys at Pumphrey Law are experienced criminal defense lawyers who can represent you and fight your petit theft charges. Our staff will take your charges seriously and find every hole in the prosecution’s argument. If you have been charged with petit theft in Tallahassee, Leon County or anywhere in the surrounding areas, call Pumphrey Law at (850) 681-7777 today for a free consultation to go over your charges and discuss your options.

The firm is proud to serve clients throughout the Florida Panhandle, including Leon County, Wakulla County, Gadsden County, Liberty County and Jefferson County.

Defining Petit Theft in Tallahassee

To understand Petit Theft, you first must understand theft. Florida law defines theft in Florida Statutes § 812.014(1) as when a person “knowingly obtains or uses, or endeavors to obtain or to use” another’s property, with the purpose to deprive that person of the right or benefit of the property, either temporarily or permanently, for his or her use, or for the use of someone else not entitled to that property.

The law then divides theft into two categories, Grand Theft and Petit Theft, mostly dividing them along the line of how valuable the allegedly stolen item is. Grand Theft is classified at anything valued above $750. Anything below $750 is Petit Theft unless it falls under certain categories in the law. Certain items listed Florida Statutes § 812.014 automatically can be charged as Grand Theft, regardless of value: any controlled substance, a stop sign, a testamentary document (will or related to estates), a firearm, any motor vehicle or a farm animal.

Petit theft, itself, is divided into two categories. Petit Theft in the First Degree is when the charge is for stealing anything that is more than $100 and less than $750.  If the item allegedly stolen is $100 or less, it is Petit Theft in the Second Degree. Petit Theft in the First Degree is a first degree misdemeanor and Petit Th

Tallahassee Penalties for Petit Theft

There are different kinds of penalties for being convicted of a crime — the penalties you face under the law, and the penalties you face by society when you have a theft conviction on your criminal record.

If convicted of Petit Theft in the First Degree for the first time, you could be sentenced to up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. For Petit Theft in the Second Degree, it could be up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. I If you have one or more prior convictions for any theft, and are convicted of Petit Theft in the Second Degree, the punishments are upgraded to up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.  If you are convicted on any Petit Theft charge (even as little as $1 stolen) with two or more theft convictions, it becomes a third degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Any conviction for theft carries a requirement that the court take your fingerprints for the public record with the judgment fixed to them. This document can be used against you in any future proceeding.

That is only the beginning of the problems you might face with a theft conviction on your criminal record. Even a petit theft or shoplifting charge carries the stigma of a person who ca not be trusted — someone who steals. A conviction will turn up on background searches, and it may be hard to find any kind of work where you have access to anything valuable, including cash. That could cut you out of a lot of work. It could also affect your relationships with friends and family to permanently be labeled a “thief” in public records.

There is simply too much at stake, even with a “little” petit theft conviction, to not take these charges seriously. An experienced criminal defense attorney could help you fight the charges.

Defenses to Tallahassee Petit Theft Charges

Merchants are very concerned about the money they lose due to theft, leading to shoplifting “crackdowns.” During these crackdowns, false accusations can fly and hit people who never intended to steal anything. Innocent mistakes and harmless decisions can lead to false accusations, and you could be caught in the crosshairs. Estimates put theft losses from retail establishments to be $25 billion a year and rising.  Police and prosecutors are prone to give more weight to the merchant, who are often big establishments capable of putting pressure on the right players.

Prosecutors must prove their case “beyond a reasonable doubt.” That means that, for the jury to convict, the prosecutors must convince them that there are no other reasonable scenarios other than guilt for each element of their case. The defense does not have to prove anything, unless making what is called an affirmative defense, such as an insanity defense. Lack of intent or mistakes are strong possible defenses in many cases.

It is true that this means the odds are stacked against the prosecution. However, Tallahassee-area prosecutors are able to meet this burden every day. Having someone on your side could make all the difference. A petit theft defense lawyer could find holes in the prosecution’s case and exploit those weaknesses.

Pumphrey Law | Tallahassee Shoplifting Defense Lawyer

If you are facing petit theft charges in Leon County, Gadsden County, Wakulla County or anywhere in the Florida Panhandle, let an experienced criminal defense attorney help you. Our team can fight to get your charges reduced or dismissed. The sooner our attorneys are able to start working on your case, the better. Call today at (850) 681-7777 to set up a free consultation with the Pumphrey Law to talk about your petit theft charge.


Article last updated February 12, 2021.

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