Any time a person knowingly obtains or uses another person or entity’s property, or attempts to obtain another’s property without that person or entity’s consent, it is considered to be theft. Theft can take the form of shoplifting from a business, larceny, stealing, or misappropriation of assets or money. The severity of theft is typically determined by the value of the assets or money in question.
Petit Theft Charges
Most states determine the severity of theft using a specific dollar limit. In many states, theft under $500 is considered to be petit or petty theft. In the case of a first offense, petit theft is usually considered a misdemeanor. However, repeat offenses or circumstances surrounding the theft may cause the charge to increase in severity or incur heftier penalties. Theft in excess of the amount specified as petit theft within the state is classified as grand theft.
Types of Petit Theft
While the most straight forward example of petit theft is a defendant taking property that belongs to another with the intent to keep it, the assessment of intention may complicate the situation. In some cases, the defendant intended to pay for the item but was distracted or forgot. In other cases, the individual did not actually leave the store or location with the item, but the intention to steal the property is assumed based on the actions of the individual.
The following scenarios may result in an arrest for petit theft:
- Eating food inside of a store or restaurant and leaving without paying
- Removing wrappings from an item in a store and concealing the item
- Concealing new clothing beneath old clothing while in a changing room
- Manipulating pricing by switching tags on items
- Placing another person’s phone into a pocket
- Placing valuable items outside of a back door of a store where employed
Petit Theft Penalties
If a charge of petit theft is a first offense, defendants typically have to pay a fine that is determined in part by the value of the property that was stolen. If petit theft is a subsequent charge following other arrests, it is still typically considered a misdemeanor, but may incur a penalty of less than one year in jail. Other penalties, such as fines, probation, and demands for restitution may also be ordered.
Minors that are charged with petit theft may face slightly different consequences than adults. Minors are often sentenced to community service in addition to fines, and may be ordered to attend classes about theft. If a minor is a habitual offender, time in a juvenile detention center may be ordered instead of time in an adult jail. Petit theft will show on the minor’s arrest record, and may make obtaining employment more difficult.
Theft is considered to be a crime of moral turpitude. While “moral turpitude” is not a charge that is levied, it may have consequences on job prospects and immigration proceedings. If a resident alien is charged with a crime of moral turpitude, it may complicate resident status and make it more difficult to obtain citizenship. In some cases, theft may even result in deportation. Petit theft may also cause offenders to lose employment or to have difficulty finding gainful employment. Theft charges may also cause a depreciation of trust regarding both business and personal relationships.
Petit Theft Defense
Determining the intention of an individual accused of petit theft is a huge part of determining whether the individual should be charged with the crime. The defense for petit theft is often based on the accused individual’s intention and perception. If it is proven that the defendant believed that rights to the property were shared or that they had exclusive rights to the property, the charge of theft may be dismissed. If the accused believed that the property was valueless to the owner, as in property put by the side of the road as refuse, the charge of petit theft may also be dismissed.
Orlando Criminal Defense Attorney
Defendants may have difficulty convincing prosecution of innocent intentions after being arrested for petit theft. A criminal defense attorney has experience with obtaining the necessary evidence and information to support a defense based on the intentions of the defendant. Hiring a criminal defense attorney may help to avoid between being punished for an honest mistake or misunderstanding.
“Idaho Statutes.” Statutes. Idaho Legislature, 1 Jan. 2014. Web. 22 May 2014.
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“Statutes & Constitution: View Statutes: Online Sunshine.” Statutes & Constitution: View Statutes: Online Sunshine. The Florida Legislature, 20 May 2014. Web. 22 May 2014.
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“The Florida Senate.” Chapter 812 Section 014. State of Florida, 1 Jan. 2014. Web. 22 May 2014.
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