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Petty theft cases are not always beatable.  Sometimes the State has a strong case.  Here are some tips on how to get a good deal from the prosecutor and (hopefully) stay out of jail if you have a bad petty theft case.

Address the reason why you're stealing?

Prosecutors want you to be proactive--they want to see that you are addressing your issues.  If it's drugs: consider getting proof that you attend rehab or NA meetings.  If it's mental health: get proof you attend counseling sessions and/or see a psychologist.

Consider saving money to pay restitution

Having money saved up so as you can pay restitution to the victim(s) can go a long way when your attorney is negotiating with the prosecutor to get you a good deal.

People that can speak on your behalf

 Gather some people that would be willing to speak on your behalf in court.  Try not to choose your best friend, girlfriend, or boyfriend--a counselor, boss, close family member, is usually a better choice.

Dress well for


This may sound like it's not important, but it actually is.  Make sure you dress professionally for court.  Unfortunately, people judge others on appearance and this includes judges and prosecutors.  If you dress up and look like you respect the court it may set you apart from the others in the courtroom and be a factor that convinces a judge to give you another chance.


Petit (Petty) Theft in Florida

Theft is taking the property of another with the intent to, either temporarily or permanently, deprive them of its use.

Petty theft in Florida involves the theft of items worth less than $750.

  • If the stolen items are valued at less than $100, it is a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days county jail.

  • If the stolen items are valued between $100 and $750, the petty theft is considered a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months county jail.

The state must prove the fair market value of the items in order to be able to prove the degree of the crime (whether it is a first or second degree misdemeanor, or a felony).


Felony Petty Theft

A person who commits petty theft, who has two or more prior theft related convictions (like petty theft, grand theft, and robbery), commits a felony petty theft, which is a third-degree felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison.

Defenses to Theft


Claim of Right 


(the “It’s mine too” defense) - A good faith belief in one's right to possession of property is a defense to the charge of theft.


Let’s say someone owns a cell phone and lets her roommate use it whenever the roommate wants to make a phone call. Later they have a falling out. The cell phone owner gets mad when she can’t find her phone and calls the police on her roommate.


The roommate has a “claim of right defense” because the roommate had permission to use the phone, used the phone regularly in the past, and believed that she still had permission to use it.


Defense of Mistake 


(the “I didn’t mean to” defense) -  A person can make an honest mistake and not realize that they have taken something.  For instance, forgetting to ring an item up in a self-checkout isle and being accused of shoplifting.

No Intent to Steal 


(the “I was gonna pay for it” defense  - Let’s say law enforcement observes a man walk into a grocery store, eat a sandwich off the shelf, and then continue placing things in his cart and shopping. Law enforcement immediately arrests the man and charges him with theft. “But I was gonna pay for it,” the man says. “You didn’t even give me a chance.”


In this case, the state will have a hard time proving that the defendant intended to steal the sandwich. The defendant can elicit evidence like he continued to shop after eating the sandwich, had not yet gotten to the register, and still had the sandwich wrapper with him to argue that he never intended to steal the sandwich and he intended to pay all along.

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