Being accused of a theft-related offense can be very troubling and can greatly affect a person’s future and ability to secure future employment. Simply being arrested for a theft-related offense can cause red flags to appear in background checks for school or work. I have even heard of cases where parents are not able to be chaperones on school field trips. That is why it is very important that a theft-related crime is handled properly. There are often ways to get the case thrown out or dismissed, though some cases are much more difficult to get dismissed. No matter what the circumstances are, it is important to have an attorney who has experience in this area and who is not afraid to take the case to trial.
Florida law defines theft as when someone:
“obtains or uses, or endeavors to obtain or 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” Fla. Stat. § 812.014
There are different levels of theft-related crimes. The higher the value the more serious the offense. Petit theft is any theft involving goods worth less than $300.00 and a Grand Theft is $300.00 and up. The prosecution can sometimes combine the value of goods stolen by 2 or more people if they think they can prove they were working together.
There are defenses to this so if you are facing a theft offense, speak to an attorney right away to see what your options are.
Defenses to Theft
- Lack of criminal intent to steal
- Consent is given by the property owner
- Property has no value or the property was abandoned (trash)
- Obtaining or Use for a lawful purpose
- Necessity or Duress
- Mistake of fact (thinking you had rightful ownership of the property)
Here are some common theft crimes and possible consequences:
Stores such as Target and Walmart have very sophisticated surveillance systems and they do not hesitate to prosecute even very low dollar theft cases. Shoplifting is seen as a nuisance that causes prices to rise for others. I have seen several cases where people are accused of shoplifting or stealing when they never even left the store. Sometimes loss prevention officers (otherwise known as security guards) act very aggressively and jump to conclusions. It is very important to take a hard look at the surveillance video, which exists in most cases, and see if the case can be proven.
Note: Retailers can and will go after civil penalties for shoplifting. For more information, speak to Attorney Amanda Sampaio who is Board Certified in Criminal Trial Law.
Employee theft is not a specific crime under Florida law, it fits into the general theft statute. However several prosecutors look at employee theft as being more serious than a regular theft charge due to the fact that the guilty party was in a position of trust being an employee of the victim. Prosecutors will often deny diversion programs to these types of cases and they will often object to these cases being sealed or expunged, despite the fact that legally the charge would qualify for a seal or expunge.
Common Theft Offenses and Possible Punishments
|Charge||Value of Property||Offense Level||Punishment|
|Petit Theft||Less than $100||M2||60 days / $500 fine|
|Petit Theft (2nd offense)||Less than $300||M1||1 year / $1,000 maximum fine|
|Possession (3rd offense)||Less than $300||F3||5 years / $5,000 maximum fine|
|Grand Theft||$300 – $20,000||F3||5 years maximum|
|Grand Theft||$20,000 – $100,000||F2||15 years maximum|
|Grand Theft||Over $100,000||F1||25 years maximum|