In Florida, theft offenses are classified as either petit theft (or petty theft) and grand theft. Petit theft is considered a lesser offense and is charged as a misdemeanor. Grand theft is the more serious offense and is a felony.
Several factors will determine whether an offense is charged as petit or grand theft. These include the type of item taken, the value of the property, and the location of the crime. Additionally, these factors will determine the degree of the offense.
Elements of a Theft Crime
Before delving into the specifics of what separates grand and petit theft, let's first look at the elements of the offense in general.
In any theft crime, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant:
- Knowingly and unlawfully obtained or used someone else's property; and
- Intended to either temporarily or permanently;
- Deprive the owner of the property; or
- Take the property for their own or someone else's use.
Third-Degree Grand Theft
Technically, two instances exist in which a person can be accused of committing third-degree grand theft.
One way is if the individual allegedly appropriated:
- Property valued between $750 and $19,999
- A will, codicil, or other testamentary instrument
- A firearm
- A vehicle
- A commercially farmed animal
- A fire extinguisher installed in a building
- 2,000 pieces or more of citrus fruit
- A stop sign
- A controlled substance in any amount
The second way someone may be accused of grand theft is when the property is worth between $100 and $750 and was taken from a dwelling. Under Florida law, a dwelling is defined as any structure, whether permanent or temporary, that has a roof and is used for overnight lodging.
Third-degree grand theft is a third-degree felony. It's punishable by a maximum of 5 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000.
Second-Degree Grand Theft
Second-degree grand theft is a more serious offense than third-degree.
A person may be accused of this crime if they steal:
- Property valued between $20,000 and $99,999
- Cargo shipped through interstate commerce and valued at less than $50,000
- Emergency medical equipment worth $300 or more
- Law enforcement equipment worth $300 or more
The offense is a second-degree felony. If the individual is found guilty, a court can sentence them to a maximum of 15 years in prison and/or fine them up to $10,000.
First-Degree Grand Theft
First-degree is considered the most serious theft offense.
It occurs when a person purloins:
- Property valued at $100,000 or more
- Cargo shipped through interstate commerce valued at $50,000 or more
A person may also be charged with first-degree grand theft if they used a getaway vehicle during the offense or caused property damage of more than $1,000.
First-degree grand theft is a first-degree felony. The conviction penalties include a prison term of no more than 30 years and/or a fine not to exceed $10,000.
Petit theft is either a first- or second-degree misdemeanor, which depends on the value of the property. If the item stolen was worth more than $100 but less than $750, the offense is a first-degree misdemeanor. A conviction may result in incarceration of no more than 1 year and/or a fine of no more than $1,000.
Theft not falling into any of the previously mentioned categories is second-degree petit theft. It is a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in jail and/or up to $500 in fines.