Theft Crimes: Understanding the Basics

Theft Crimes: Understanding the Basics

Theft is the act of taking another person’s property from them either temporarily or permanently with the intent to deprive the owner of the use or a benefit the property provides, appropriating the property for use by a person who is not entitled to use the property or convert the property to unauthorized use, i.e, misappropriation or embezzlement.

The term “property” can include personal property, real property, property rights, and benefits, as well as public and private services. Theft can take many different forms and can be obvious or ambiguous.

Types of Theft Crimes In Florida

Florida has two basic categories for theft crimes, then divides them further into degrees. The penalties depend on the value or type of property taken, as well as the circumstances involved.

  • Petit (“petty”) theft is a misdemeanor for property valued at $750 or less
  • Grand theft is a felony for property valued over $750. The degree increases with the value of the property

Florida also increases the penalties for theft for habitual offenses, repeated petit theft, or thefts from people aged 65 or older.


Governor DeSantis recently signed HB549 increasing penalties for retail theft:

  • Retail theft involving five or more individuals is charged as a third-degree felony with up to five years in prison
  • Organized retail theft using social media to recruit others for participation is charged as a second-degree felony with up to 15 years in prison
  • Retail theft committed with a firearm or two or more convictions of retail theft is charged as a first-degree felony and up to 30 years in prison (and may also invoke Florida’s 10-20-Life statutes.)

The bill also addresses theft of delivered packages from a home, known as “porch pirating”:

  • Theft of a package valued under $40 is a first-degree misdemeanor
  • Theft of property valued over $0 and subsequent violations are charged as a third-degree felony

Also illegal are anti-shoplifting countermeasures such as lined “booster” bags designed to hide stolen property from sensors that pick up tags or other security measures. Possession of any type of devices intended to defeat shoplifting prevention measures or equipment is also illegal under Florida Statute 812.015(7)

Defenses Against Theft

Even if you are innocent of theft, it’s never a good idea to try and handle the court case on your own. Our experienced attorneys understand both petit theft and grand theft and can construct a strong defense for your court case.

Because theft is considered a crime of intent—that is a person intended to not only take an item but take it for their personal use—part of a defense is to show that the intent did not exist. The item may have been borrowed from the owner with their consent and permission, for instance, or picked up by mistake.

What if a person believed they were the rightful owner of the property? If that were the case, the defense would have to prove ownership and show why the person believed it was theirs.

If the property had no value, such as an item left on the curb to be picked up, there is no theft. Mere presence at the scene of the crime can also be used as a defense.  


Florida takes any type of theft seriously and has harsh penalties if convicted. If you are arrested and charged with theft, call us immediately. The police are unconcerned with justice, only making arrests and solving cases. We believe that you should consult with a criminal defense attorney anytime you are asked to speak to the police. Say nothing to them until you speak with us.

If you or a loved one has been arrested or accused of a crime, contact the criminal defense team of Farkas & Crowley as soon as possible. We are available 24/7, whenever you need us. Call (561)-444-9529 or contact us online to schedule your consultation.

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