The Penalties for First Offense Petty Theft


If you take your friend's designer handbag without her consent and plan to keep it without telling her, you're committing the crime of petty theft, also known as larceny. If you steal the handbag from a business, it is known as shoplifting. Typically, you can be charged with petty theft if you steal something of value, such as the designer purse, but that value is less than a specified amount. For example, in Florida, stealing property worth less than $300 constitutes petty theft.

Degrees and Penalties

  • Petty theft is a low-level crime, usually charged as a misdemeanor. For example, in California, petty theft is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. Many states also have multiple degrees of petty theft, with increasing penalties. In Florida, for instance, stealing property valued at less than $100 is a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days in prison, a fine of up to $500, or both. If the value of the stolen property is between $100 and $300, it becomes to a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail.

Reductions and Dismissals

  • A first-time offender might be eligible for a reduced penalty or even dismissal of the petty theft charges. In California, for example, if stolen property is valued at less than $50, and the offender doesn't have other theft convictions on his record, the prosecutor may reduce the charge to an infraction, punishable by a fine of up to $250. If the value of the stolen goods is greater than $50, the offender may be placed in a diversion program, which might involve attending anti-theft classes, performing community service and paying restitution to the victim in exchange for the dismissal of the petty theft charges.


  • Photo Credit Steve Lovegrove/iStock/Getty Images
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