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Florida criminalizes many types of “unlawful takings,” but two of the most common theft offenses are petty (petit) theft and grand theft. There are two main differences between these two theft offenses: the value of the property in question and the maximum punishment faced by the defendant if convicted. Being accused of any crime at all is never a good thing, but the potential penalties for people arrested for petty theft are significantly less than the penalties for people who have been arrested for grand theft. Still, a person accused of either type of theft should speak to a property crime lawyer about possible defenses because any criminal conviction may have long-term implications. Tampa petty theft lawyer Will Hanlon at Hanlon Law has been handing criminal cases in Florida courts for more than two decades, and he is here to help you during this difficult and unsettling time.

The crime of theft may range from something as simple as stealing a candy bar from a convenience store on a whim to involvement in a complicated scheme to steal a large amount of cash from a safe. Generally, “petty theft” is defined as the knowing and unlawful taking – with the intent to deprive the rightful owner of the use of the property – of something worth less than $300. Specific criminal intent is required in order for the State of Florida to meet its burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Unlike some crimes that are considered “strict liability” crimes (like speeding or statutory rape), a person who did not intend to steal has a valid defense against a theft charge.


In proving the element of intent, the State may rely on video surveillance evidence showing that the defendant pocketed the item in question or the testimony of the property owner that they did not give the defendant permission to borrow the thing that was allegedly stolen. In assisting a client, a petty theft attorney in the Tampa area may question the veracity or reliability of the State’s evidence, or they may mount specific defenses to the crime in question. For instance, the defendant’s attorney may be able to challenge video surveillance evidence in a particular case if the footage is very grainy or does not show the defendant’s face. The property owner’s testimony may prove much less valuable than the State hoped if the defense attorney can show that the witness was biased, had a motive to lie, or is generally untrustworthy. For instance, what if the property owner was a convicted felon who had been to prison for fraud? A jury may find their words less than convincing.

Because of certain constitutional protections, such as the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, it may also be possible to have certain evidence completely excluded from the jury’s consideration at trial. Under the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine, evidence obtained by police in violation of a defendant’s constitutional rights may not be considered by a jury in determining the guilt or innocence of the accused. This is usually accomplished via a motion to exclude filed on the defendant’s behalf by their counsel.


The State has the burden of proving every single element of a theft offense or another crime. This requires credible proof sufficient to convince a jury of the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Tampa petty theft attorney Will Hanlon can help you investigate your case with the goal of achieving the most favorable outcome possible under the facts of your alleged offense and arrest. Call us at 813-228-7095 or contact us online to schedule a consultation at your earliest convenience. The sooner that you talk to legal counsel about your case, the sooner that you can have the assurance that you have an advocate in your corner who will defend your reputation and fight for your future. We can also assist people who need a grand theft lawyer to help them face more serious types of theft charges.