Many different types of taking or stealing may constitute petty theft. In Florida, petty theft is charged when the value of the property is low. If you were caught shoplifting jeans, for example, you might be charged with petty theft. Although this type of charge may not seem like a big deal compared to a grand theft charge, a criminal record can affect you far into your future. You should consult an experienced Clearwater petty theft lawyer. At Hanlon Law, we protect the rights of the accused.Fighting a Charge of Petty Theft in Florida
In order to secure a conviction for petty theft, a prosecutor must establish that you (1) knowingly (2) appropriated, used, obtained, or tried to get (3) another party's property (4) so that the person or entity would be deprived of property benefits or rights. As with other crimes, the prosecutor must prove each of these elements beyond a reasonable doubt, and if they cannot do so, the charge will fail. However, the government has significant resources to try to establish its case according to the required standard of proof, and it is crucial to consult an experienced Clearwater criminal defense attorney.
There are two degrees of petty theft. The most serious is first-degree petty theft, which is a first-degree misdemeanor. You can be charged with first-degree petty theft if the prosecutor believes that the property that you took or appropriated is valued at $100-$300. A first-degree misdemeanor conviction can lead to a sentence of incarceration for up to 1 year and a $1,000 fine. It is important to realize that if you have a prior conviction for theft, whether it is a petty theft or a grand theft prior conviction, your petty theft charge can be enhanced to a third-degree grand theft charge. A conviction for third-degree grand theft can result in a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Violence in the course of petty theft, such as if you took a gun into a drug store in order to steal $200, can result in a robbery charge. An experienced petty theft attorney in Clearwater will need to craft a strategy to account for this charge as well. Under section 812.13, robbery involves the taking of property that may be the subject of larceny from someone else's custody, intending to deprive that person or the owner of the property, and violence, assault, force, or the creation of fear is used. When a robbery involves a firearm or other deadly weapon, it is likely to be charged as a first-degree felony, which can be punished with imprisonment for up to life.
The less serious category of petty theft is second-degree petty theft, which is a second-degree misdemeanor. This is charged when a prosecutor believes that what has been taken is worth less than $100. You could be sentenced to at most 60 days’ incarceration and a fine of $500. If you have a prior theft conviction, the charge may be a first-degree misdemeanor, and if you have two or more prior convictions, you can be charged with a third-degree felony, which can result in a sentence of up to 5 years’ imprisonment and a $5,000 fine. In addition to a misdemeanor or felony on your record, you may have your driver's license suspended.
There are defenses that a Clearwater petty theft attorney may be able to raise. Petty theft, like other crimes, must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, and we may be able to raise a reasonable doubt about one or more elements. For example, we might be able to show that you did not intend to deprive someone else of property rights or benefits. Or we may be able to prove that you believed that you were given consent to use the property.
It may be possible to contest the value of the property. The value of the property is determined by its market value at the time of the theft or the cost of replacing the property reasonably soon after the theft. For example, if you are initially charged with grand theft because the prosecutor claims that an item is worth $1,000, we may be able to show that the value of the property was under $300 in order to negotiate a petty theft plea.Get Advice from an Experienced Petty Theft Lawyer in Clearwater
Petty theft charges may not seem very serious, but multiple misdemeanor convictions can eventually lead to a felony charge. It is important to fight these charges from the outset. Our founder, Will Hanlon, has fought for people accused of theft crimes ranging from petty theft to grand theft and identity theft since 1994. You can contact Hanlon Law at 727-897-5413 or via our online form.