The crime of petty theft (technically known as “petit” theft) can generally be described as the taking of property belonging to another party when the value of it is less than $300. (Taking more than $300 worth of property is grand theft.) While petty theft is a misdemeanor, meaning that the defendant cannot be incarcerated for more than a year, there are other, more long-ranging consequences for a conviction of a theft crime, so consulting an attorney is a critical step to take in this situation. Skilled St. Petersburg and Clearwater petty theft lawyer Will Hanlon can help you understand the punishments and other consequences that you might face if you have been charged with this type of offense.
Under Florida Statutes § 812.014, a person commits the crime of theft when “he or she knowingly obtains or uses… the property of another with intent to … deprive the other person of a right to the property or a benefit from the property or appropriate the property to his or her own use or to the use of any person not entitled to the use of the property.” It does not matter whether the taking is temporary or permanent, as long as the defendant endeavors to obtain or use the victim’s property. The State of Florida has the burden of proving each element of the crime of theft beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendant has no obligation to testify at trial, but they may cross-examine the State’s witnesses and may provide witnesses on their own behalf.The Consequences of Petty Theft May Be More Far-Reaching Than You Realize
While a first-offense petty theft charge may be only a misdemeanor, this does not mean that a person accused of this crime should take the accusation lightly. A petty theft attorney in Clearwater or St. Petersburg can explain the full range of consequences that you may be facing. In addition to possible jail time and fines, a person convicted of theft now has a criminal record that can affect issues such as employment and housing. While not as potentially damaging as a felony conviction, even a misdemeanor theft conviction can keep a defendant from being considered for work in certain jobs, especially those in which the person hired would be in charge of handling money or property. Furthermore, if the defendant is charged with other crimes in the future, the misdemeanor theft conviction can be taken into consideration in determining the sentence for that future crime.
With regard to defending against a charge of petty theft, one of the potentially effective ways to avoid a conviction is to refute or call into question the State’s proof regarding one or more elements of the charge. For example, if the State calls a supposed eyewitness to testify that they saw the defendant steal the item in question, the defendant’s attorney may be able to lessen the effect of this testimony by showing that the witness did not have a good view of the scene, that they are not a trustworthy person based on previous events in their life, or that they may have an improper motive for accusing the defendant.Contact a Petty Theft Lawyer in the Clearwater or St. Petersburg Areas
Speaking to an attorney about your case is an important first step in protecting your future against the many negative repercussions of a theft conviction. While some defendants qualify for a public defender based upon their financial situation, it is advisable to hire a private attorney if at all possible. Private attorneys are able to manage their own caseloads and can give each case the attention that it deserves. As well-intentioned as a public defender may be, the reality is that many of these attorneys are inexperienced and overburdened. To schedule an appointment with a St. Petersburg and Clearwater petty theft attorney about your case, call Hanlon Law at 727.897.5413 or contact us online. Will Hanlon also can help people who need a grand theft lawyer in Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Newport Richey, and Dade City.