Theft and Shoplifting Attorneys Palm Beach and Broward County
Have a Petit Theft case against you and need legal counsel? Contact Law Firm Bottari & Doyle in Palm Beach County for legal representation at 561-588-2781.
Pursuant to Florida Statute 812.014, a person commits theft if he or she knowingly obtains or uses, or endeavors to obtain or to use, the property of another with intent to, either temporarily or permanently: deprive the other person of a right to the property or a benefit from the property or appropriate the property to his or her own use or to the use of any person not entitled to the use of the property.
For example, a person who takes a keyboard from the Apple store without paying for it, intending to not pay for it commits Petit Theft if the value of the keyboard is less than $300.
Definition of Petit Theft
To prove the crime of Petit Theft, the State must prove the following two elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The Defendant knowingly and unlawfully obtained or used or endeavored to obtain or to use the property of the victim, and;
The Defendant did so with the intent to, either temporarily or permanently,
- Deprive the victim of the victim’s right to the property or any benefit from it, or;
- Appropriate the property of the victim to the defendant’s own use or to the use any person not entitled to it.
To convict a defendant of first degree misdemeanor petit theft, the State must also find beyond a reasonable doubt that the value of the stolen property was $100 or more.
Misdemeanor Penalties for Petit Theft
Petit theft is a second degree misdemeanor if the value of the stolen property is valued at less than $100 and if the defendant has never been convicted of a theft crime. Second degree misdemeanors are punishable by up to 60 days in the county jail.
Petit theft is a first degree misdemeanor if the value of the stolen property is $100 or more, but less than $300. Petit theft is also a first degree misdemeanor when the value of the property is less than $100 if the defendant has a prior conviction for a theft crime. First degree misdemeanors are punishable by up to one year in the county jail.
*It is felony grand theft if the property stolen is valued at $100 or more, but less then $300, when the property is taken from a dwelling or from the unenclosed curtilage of a dwelling.
Felony Penalties for Petit Theft
Petit theft is a third degree felony when a person has previously been convicted two or more times of any theft. Third degree felonies are punishable by up to 5 years in state prison.
A criminal defense attorney may be able to convince a prosecutor to file the charging document (the information) in county court. If filed in county court, the charge would be Petit Theft 2nd or more to keep the case in county court. This is why it is important to consult a criminal defense attorney early on in the process. It is often easier to obtain the best result when a case is properly worked on from the beginning.
Defenses to Petit Theft
There are many defenses to Petit theft. Petit theft requires the defendant to possess the intent to temporarily or permanently deprive the victim of a right to their property. Intent is dependent on what a defendant was thinking at the time of the alleged theft, and is a question for the jury. The following are situations where a defendant may not possess the requisite intent:
- Placing items from a store on the bottom of a shopping cart, forgetting to pay the cashier for those items, and passing all points of sale. In this situation, a person simply forgot to pay, and thus did not possess the requisite intent to steal.
- Exiting a store with items in a shopping cart, without paying, to look at items located in the front of the store. In this situation, the person wanted to look at more items that happened to be located in the front of the store, but did not possess the intent to steal the items in the shopping cart. .
- Can the State prove the value of the item stolen? To prove that the defendant is guilty of a first degree misdemeanor, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the value of the item is greater than or equal to $100. There are many situations where the State has difficulty proving value.
What kind of evidence does the State rely on to prove their case?
In shoplifting cases or retail theft cases, the State typically relies on the testimony of the Loss Prevention Officer (LPO) who stopped the shoplifter, testimony from the arresting officer, and the store surveillance video. LPOs are store employees who look for shoplifters, and stop shoplifters when they exit the store. LPOs often write reports describing the incident, the property stolen, and any statements made by the shoplifter. LPOs often make mistakes by testifying inconsistently to their report, leaving out information from their report, and jumping to conclusions.
Can any evidentiary motions be filed?
Absolutely. In addition to any applicable motions in limine and motions to dismiss a criminal defense lawyer may file a best evidence rule motion. For example, what happens if a police officer or loss prevention officer watched the surveillance video of the theft, but the State did not produce the surveillance video? The best evidence rule would prohibit both the police officer and loss prevention officer from testifying about what they saw in the video, because the video is the best evidence.
If you have been arrested for Petit Theft in Palm Beach County, Broward County or Martin County, contact a
Palm Beach criminal defense attorney from Bottari & Doyle at (561)-588-2781 for a free consultation.