Petty theft is simply defined as the act of stealing a minor item or possession from an individual or business. Thus, the legal term, “petty theft” insinuates that the crime isn’t taken seriously in Florida. However, this is often quite the contrary.
Like other criminal cases, petty theft charges are enacted and prosecuted by the state. Therefore, if you are convicted of this crime, you could face severe implications commensurate with the alleged offense.
Under specific circumstances, a West Palm Beach theft attorney can have petty theft charges can be dropped, even if the burden of proof can be entirely obtained by the state, which links you to the crime.
The State Holds Discretion Over Prosecution
In typical legal disputes, an individual or business that has been offended by another entity can decide whether to press charges or not. Conversely, the state of Florida holds the ultimate discretion on whether to prosecute an individual, despite the wishes of the offended.
Usually, the state holds this discretion on a case by case basis and will take into account if the offended would like to proceed with charges. However, depending on the severity of the crime, the state can press charges on the offender. There are also a variety of unknown factors, in which the state can arbitrarily choose to prosecute an individual charged with petty theft.
Minor Charges Are Usually Dropped
One primary fact that you must understand is that legal cases brought to state courts cost money, excess amounts for that matter. Due to this fact, prosecutors are unlikely to pursue cases that they know cannot be won, or cases that they perceive will cost too much of the court’s time and money. Hence, minor instances of petty theft tend to be generally ignored by state prosecutors.
Major Incidents Capture The State’s Attention
Although the state holds discretion over which cases they will prosecute, incidents of petty theft that are simply too major to ignore will usually capture the state’s attention. For example, a simple “eat and run” incident may not initially warrant state-level prosecution as opposed to repeated offenses of shoplifting.
The Offended Can Technically Drop the Charges
There is a specific legal instance in which the offender can technically drop charges of petty theft in Florida. This can happen simply if the offender comes forward and explains that the defendant is not guilty of the charges.
Although it was mentioned before that the state can still press charges on the defendant, they will listen to the plaintiff on this matter. However, things can get a bit tricky.If the state denies the request for the plaintiff to drop the charges, the plaintiff can technically drop these charges by refusing to cooperate with the state’s case.
For example, if you steal a minor item from a family-owned business and the state decides to press charges, the business can choose to remain uncooperative to the state’s case to have the charges automatically dropped. If the business does this, the state loses its main witness, which can defeat the purpose of pursuing the case in the first place.
Is Petty Theft A Felony In Florida?
In Florida, grand theft is classified as the unlawful theft of an item valued at $300 or more. Anything less than this amount can be determined as petty theft. Accordingly, anyone successfully charged with grand theft will have a felony on their record.
The same usually goes for petty theft, only in extenuating circumstances. A minor incident of shoplifting will usually not result in a felony, but if the defendant has multiple charges of petty theft, they can receive a felony.
Due to this fact, the term “petty theft” can be somewhat misleading, primarily because the consequences associated with this crime can be major to repeat offenders. In actuality, a felony can also be issued at the discretion of the prosecutor, depending on a myriad of unknown factors.
Having Your Charges Dropped Can Take a While
Even if you proceed to have your charges drop, keep in mind that this process can take a while. Of course, if the offended can successfully convince the state to drop your charges, you can be set free, sometimes without an arrest. However, if the state presses charges, the road to having your charges dropped can become even more strenuous.
It can take a few months for a case to be built against you, while the state determines court dates and the amount for your bail. Though, it can take you longer to obtain your freedom if you are trying to convince the plaintiff to drop your charges, via uncooperating.
Once the state has what they need from the plaintiff on the day of the trial, the charges will be pursued no matter if the plaintiff chooses to recant their testimony. Hence, it’s prudent to seek legal assistance if you believe that your charges won’t be dropped by the offended in order to cushion the extent of your punishment, or even maintain your innocence and freedom.
Petty Theft Charges Are Essentially Random
Under Florida law, any illegal theft under the value of $300 can be deemed as petty theft. However, many offenders don’t take this into account when they commit an act of theft. For example, an offender may simply run into a store and steal a necklace worth $700 without initially realizing it. Afterward, they may even be confused when they are charged with grand theft instead of petty theft.
Ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking the law. Therefore, be mindful that you are basically locked in the situation you initiated, regardless of if you believed that your actions warranted petty theft charges.
Petty theft charges are serious legal offenses that can have a variety of stiff consequences for the offender. If you are facing these charges, contact Hutchinson & Huffman, P.A. to learn more about your legal options in Florida.