Miami Petty Theft Lawyer
While petit theft (or petty theft) is a lesser criminal charge than grand theft, a conviction for petit theft can still result in jail time, fines and probation. In addition, the lasting damage to your reputation can make it more difficult to find a job or rent an apartment in the future. The surest way to stay of out jail and preserve your good name is by working with the right criminal defense attorney.
At Valiente Law, we believe that any criminal charge is serious and all defendants deserve first-rate legal representation. We know that a conviction will result in a permanent criminal record that will follow you throughout your life, potentially interfering with educational, employment and other opportunities. If you are facing petty theft charges in Miami, Fort Lauderdale or West Palm Beach, we will work diligently to achieve the best possible outcome of your case.
What is Petit Theft in Florida?
Under Florida Law, petit theft is defined as the unlawful taking or using of another’s property valued at less than $300 with the intent to deprive the owner of a right or benefit in the property. Petit theft is one of the most frequently charged crimes in Florida and the most common form of petit theft is shoplifting or retail theft. In any event, there are two degrees of petit theft:
- First Degree Petit Theft — The defendant knowingly obtains, uses, or tries to obtain or use, the property of another valued at more than $100, but less than $300. Classified as a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine up to $1,000.
- Second Degree Petit Theft — The defendant knowingly obtains, uses, or tries to obtain or use, the property of another valued at less than $100. Classified as a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a fine up to $500.
In addition, an individual convicted of petit theft may also face civil penalties — a driver’s license suspension for up to 1 year and court-ordered restitution to the victim, based on the value of the property taken.
Potential Defenses Against Petit Theft Charges
In order to gain a conviction, prosecutors must be able to prove the following elements of petit theft beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The defendant knowingly and unlawfully obtained or used, or attempted to obtain or use, the property of another
- The defendant did so with the intent of permanently or temporarily (1) depriving the owner of his or her right to the property or any benefit from it, or (2) appropriating the property to the defendant’s own use or to the use of any person not entitled to it.
- In order to establish intent, the prosecution must be able to demonstrate not only that an intentional act occurred, but also that the defendant had the intent to deprive of the owner of the property. As an example, an unlawful taking as an act of revenge may not constitute intent.
Defenses that may be effective against petit theft charges include:
- An Alibi — The defendant was not at the scene when the crime occurred
- Lack of Intent — The defendant had a good faith belief that he or she owned the property, had a possessory interest in the property, or had a joint ownership interest in the property
- Good faith possession — The defendant had taken possession of property with good faith belief that he or she had a right to the property
- Consent — The defendant had the owner’s consent to take the property
Pretrial Intervention for First Offenses
Although petit theft is a misdemeanor offense, a conviction may lead to jail time and a permanent blemish on your criminal record. Fortunately, there are “diversion programs” for a first arrest, which divert grand theft cases lacking a viable defense away from the courts before a trial occurs. One such program is known as Pretrial Intervention (PTI) — an arrangement between the defendant and the state in which prosecutors agree to dismiss the charges. In exchange, the defendant must complete certain requirements within a specified time period, including:
- Community service
- Financial responsibility or retail theft/”anti-theft” classes
- Payment of monthly program fees
All of the foregoing requirements are designed to “rehabilitate” the defendant and prevent future violations of the law. Our legal team will assess whether you are eligible for PTI or other diversion programs.
Why Choose Valiente Law
Although petit theft is not as serious a crime as grand theft, the surest way to avoid a conviction is to work with the right criminal defense attorneys. Our legal team will choose the best line of defense and work to protect your rights and preserve your freedom. While we are committed to winning an acquittal, we will assess the strength of the evidence against you to determine if seeking a reduction of the charges will lead to a better outcome for you. Above all, we will always put your best interests first. If you or someone you know has been charged with petit theft, we can help. Contact our office as soon as possible. We offer reasonable rates and the consultation is free.