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Petit Theft Lawyers

So you got busted for shoplifting, huh?

What is Petit Theft in Florida?

Let’s start with the basics. Petit theft — sometimes called petty theft or shoplifting — refers to stealing property under $750 in value. It’s usually charged as a misdemeanor in Florida.

But don’t think you’ll just get a slap on the wrist. Petit theft penalties can include:

  • Up to 1 year in jail
  • Up to $1,000 in fines
  • Probation
  • Community service
  • Restitution

Shoplifting and employee theft make up the bulk of petit theft cases. But petit theft also covers:

  • Stealing a bicycle
  • Pocketing items from an open garage
  • “Forgetting” to scan something at self-checkout

You get the idea. If you take something that doesn’t belong to you and it’s worth less than $750, it’s petit theft.

Common Petit Theft Charges

There are a few specific petit theft crimes that come up a lot:

Shoplifting – Concealing store merchandise on your person and leaving without paying is the classic shoplifting scenario. Getting caught stealing anything from a retail store — even a pack of gum! — can lead to petit theft charges.

Employee Theft – Employees stealing merchandise, cash, or property from their workplace is surprisingly common. But it’s also easily detected and prosecuted.

Gas Theft – Driving off without paying for gas counts as theft, even if it was accidental.

“Finding” Lost Property – Keeping lost items valued under $750 without making an effort to find the owner is considered theft.

Altering Price Tags – Swapping price tags to get an item for cheaper is another common petit theft charge.

“Dine and Dash” – Leaving a restaurant without paying your bill falls under petit theft.

Rental Property Theft – Stealing appliances, fixtures, or furnishings from a rental home or Airbnb rental can also lead to petit theft charges.

Petit Theft Penalties

Like I said earlier, petit theft is still a criminal charge — not a cost of doing business. Penalties often include:

  • Up to 1 year in jail – Petit theft is a misdemeanor, but misdemeanors can still result in county jail time of up to 1 year. Few first-time offenders serve a full year, but 30 days in jail isn’t uncommon.
  • Fines up to $1,000 – The maximum fine for petit theft in Florida is $1,000. Expect fines of $200 to $500 for a first offense.
  • Probation – Probation lasting 6 months to 1 year is standard for petit theft convictions. That means checking in with a probation officer and following strict rules.
  • Community Service – Expect to complete 40 to 100 court-ordered community service hours for petit theft.
  • Restitution – You’ll have to repay the value of anything stolen, plus processing fees. Restitution could be $50 to $500+ depending on what was taken.
  • Civil Demand – Retailers often demand an additional civil penalty of $200 to $500 if you’re caught shoplifting, on top of criminal charges.
  • Lifetime Criminal Record – Petit theft results in a permanent criminal record, which can hurt job and housing prospects down the road.

Common Defenses Against Petit Theft

Don’t panic if you’re facing petit theft accusations. A skilled lawyer can often get charges reduced or dismissed. Here are some common defenses:

  • Mistake of fact – You thought you had permission to take the item or fully paid for it, but were mistaken.
  • False accusations – You have evidence proving you didn’t commit the theft you’re accused of.
  • Lack of criminal intent – You accidentally overlooked an item at self checkout or misunderstood store policies.
  • Unlawful search – Items were found through an illegal search of your purse, bag, or vehicle.
  • Mental illness – You have a mental disability that impacted your actions.
  • Necessity – You stole essential items to provide for basic needs.
  • Entrapment – The police induced you to commit a theft you wouldn’t otherwise have committed.
  • Intoxication – You were too impaired to form criminal intent required for petit theft.

An experienced lawyer can advise if any of these defenses apply in your case.

Diversion Programs May Offer a Way Out

Many first-time petit theft offenders can avoid conviction through pretrial diversion programs like:

  • Pretrial intervention – Charges are dropped after completing a rehabilitation program.
  • Adjudication withheld – You plead guilty or no contest, but adjudication is withheld so no conviction appears on your record.

Completing required conditions like community service, restitution, and probation terms can earn you a clean slate. But you generally only get one shot at diversion programs.

Don’t Go It Alone — Hire a Petit Theft Lawyer

Trying to navigate Florida’s theft laws alone is risky business. Petit theft charges are complex. The laws can be confusing, even for lawyers!

Having an experienced petit theft attorney on your side levels the playing field. Your lawyer will thoroughly examine the evidence and build the strongest defense to achieve the best possible outcome.

A good lawyer knows how to negotiate with judges and prosecutors to get charges reduced or dismissed. They can advise if you’re eligible for a diversion program. And if necessary, they aren’t afraid to take your case to trial.

Most importantly, a lawyer prevents you from accidentally incriminating yourself and avoids maximum penalties. Don’t take chances. Your future is too important.

What to Look for in a Petit Theft Lawyer

Not just any lawyer will do. To beat petit theft charges, you need an attorney with specific skills and experience, like:

  • Extensive knowledge of Florida’s petit theft and shoplifting laws
  • A proven record of getting petit theft charges dismissed
  • Strong relationships with local prosecutors and judges
  • Experience negotiating diversion programs for theft offenders
  • Skill at building persuasive defenses and arguing before a judge
  • Affordable legal fees and payment plans

Take time to research lawyers’ credentials and client reviews. Meet with a few lawyers before deciding who to hire.

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