Grand Theft vs. Petit Theft in Florida

In Florida, penalties for theft are intended to be in proportion to the crime. Because situations and circumstances in which theft can be committed seem infinite, Florida’s theft laws are categorized to account for the relative seriousness of each offense. 

The two major categories of theft in Florida are “grand theft” and “petit theft.” In this blog post, we will explain how each level of theft is determined and what penalties they carry for those convicted of criminal theft.  

Stechschulte and Nell, Attorneys at Law, have extensive experience representing clients accused of theft offenses ranging from high-value, first-degree theft by habitual offenders, to first offense shoplifting offenses by juveniles. If you or your family member is facing a theft charge of any kind in Tampa or elsewhere in Hillsborough County, contact our office right away to get all your questions answered and to let us protect the legal and constitutional rights of the person accused.  

Defining Theft 

Criminal theft is committed according to Florida law when: 

812.014 Theft.— 

(1) A person commits theft if he or she knowingly obtains or uses, or endeavors to obtain or to use, the property of another with intent to, either temporarily or permanently: 

(a) Deprive the other person of a right to the property or a benefit from the property. 

(b) Appropriate the property to his or her own use or to the use of any person not entitled to the use of the property 

How Is Grand Theft Different from Petit Theft? 

Generally, grand theft and petit theft are distinguished from one another by the value of the item stolen. But a grand theft charge can also result from a petit theft committed by a repeat offender or when the facts and circumstances of the incident warrant an elevation of the charges. 

Each category of theft, both grand and petit, is divided into degrees. Referring to the relative degree of seriousness, third degree is the least serious, second degree is more serious, and first degree thefts are the most serious level of offense and carry the longest and most harsh penalties. The petit category of thefts is divided into only two degrees, while the grand theft offenses are separated into three degrees. 

Finally, not only are theft offenses separated by category and degree, the levels and penalties can be impacted by allegations that the defendant committed aggravating acts or in aggravating circumstances.  

Aggravating Circumstances Can Elevate Penalties 

Grand theft offenses and petit theft offenses can invite additional, elevated penalties under circumstances the law deems to be “aggravating.” Usually called enhanced sentences, the maximum penalty for any theft can be increased, sometimes substantially, if one of these statutory aggravating facts is present in your case: 

  • Repeat Offender: Second or subsequent offense minimally raises the offense degree of seriousness and in cases of grand thefts, some repeat offenders or habitual offenders are eligible for a prison sentence up to a life term. 
  • Elderly Victim: If the victim of your theft is age 65 or older, any theft over $300 and under $10,000 is a third-degree felony carrying up to five years in prison. If the victim were younger, a theft over $300 and under $750 would be a misdemeanor and carry no more than one year in jail. Similarly, other levels of theft from an elder also carry increased penalties for lower valued thefts than would apply to younger victims. 

Petit Theft 

Petit theft generally includes theft of things lower in value and in more benign circumstances than in cases of grand theft. The term “petit” is an old English word meaning “of less importance, or smaller.”i 

Despite the seeming trivialization of petit thefts as compared to grand theft, a repeat petit theft offender can suffer increased penalties by having a second or subsequent offense elevated either to a higher degree petit theft carrying a longer sentence or up to a felony for which a convicted defendant faces up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. 

Petit Theft Second DegreeTheft of something valued at less than $100 is a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to a 60-day jail sentence and up to a $500 fine. 

Petit Theft First Degree — A first-degree petit theft includes a theft valued between $100 and $750. This level of theft carries a sentence of up to one year in prison and as much as $1,000 in fines. 

Grand Theft 

Grand theft charges are felonies and should be considered very serious. Accumulating convictions for two or more felonies triggers enhanced penalties and sometimes the addition of a habitual offender allegation.  

Grand theft is also significant because it can be committed regardless of the value of the thing stolen in some situations.  

An experienced criminal defense attorney is imperative for any defendant facing grand theft charges of any degree. The consequences of felony convictions are life-altering and a skilled criminal defense attorney knows how to use the law to lower degree levels and even defeat the allegations entirely. 

Stechschulte Nell is Tampa and Hillsborough County’s premier criminal defense firm. Call us immediately if you are facing any theft charges. Call us at 813-280-1244. 

Grand theft Third Degree — Thefts fitting this level of offense carry up to five years in prison and as much as a $5,000 fine. Third-degree grand theft is a third-degree felony. Any theft of something valued at or more than $750 and under $20,000 can be charged at this level. 

Third-degree thefts include offenses that are determined by the nature of the thing taken or the location where the theft occurred. For example, a theft committed in or near another person’s home of something valued as low as $100 up to $750 is a theft in the third degree. So too is any theft of drugs, firearms. or any theft of something from a construction site.  

Grand Theft Second Degree — Second-degree theft is punishable as a second-degree felony carrying up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Again, the value of the thing stolen may serve as the basis for this offense, valued from $20,000 to $100,000. But other values of theft also fit this degree of grand theft: looting during a declared emergency of only $5,000 to $20,000, interstate cargo worth less than $50,000, or even only $300 of emergency medical or police equipment. 

Grand Theft First Degree — First-degree grand theft is the highest level of theft offense. The penalty for even a first offense can be as much as 30 years to life in prison and a $10,000 fine. Any theft valued at more than $100,000 fits in this group. Some less valuable thefts also qualify if the circumstances fit the statutory description found at Fla. S. § 812.014. 

Charged with Theft?  

If you have been charged with theft, we are ready to aggressively defend your charges. Call Stechschulte Nell for a case review today; 813-280-1244.  

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