Florida’s Laws Against Shoplifting
Here’s a quick question. Let’s say you’re in a mall in Fort Lauderdale, and you enter a clothing store holding a plastic bag. You pick up a sweater, and put it in the bag without paying for it. A moment later, a police officer approaches you. Can the officer arrest you for shoplifting?
A lot of people would say that the answer is no. They’d say you hadn’t yet broken the law, because you hadn’t left the store yet – so you hadn’t actually stolen anything. However, those people would be wrong.
Florida’s statute on retail theft (which is the legal term used in Florida for shoplifting) defines the offense as “the taking possession or carrying away of merchandise, property, money or negotiable documents; altering or removing a label, universal product code or price tag; transferring merchandise from one container to another; or removing a shopping cart, with the intent to deprive the merchant of possession, use, benefit, or full retail value.”
This means that if you intended to steal the sweater, you were guilty of retail theft the moment you took possession of it by placing it in your bag. Leaving the store is not a necessary element of the crime.What Are the Penalties for Retail Theft?
In Florida, retail theft can be either a grand theft offense, or a petit theft offense. (“Petit theft” is also known as “petty theft.”) As you might guess from their names, grand theft offenses carry harsher penalties than petit theft offenses.
Under Florida Statute §812.014, stealing property that is valued between $300 and $5,000 is grand theft of the third degree (which is punishable as a third degree felony.) Stealing property that is valued between $100 and $300 is petit theft in the first degree (which is punishable as a first degree misdemeanor.) And stealing property that is valued at less than $100 is petit theft in the second degree (which is punishable as a second degree misdemeanor.)
However, if someone with a prior conviction for any type of theft offense is charged with petit theft, it will be considered a misdemeanor in the first degree. And if the person being charged with petit theft has been convicted two or more times for theft offenses of any kind, then it will be considered a felony in the third degree.If You’ve Been Charged With Retail Theft
Whether the charge is a misdemeanor or a felony, a conviction for a theft offense can land you in jail. Don’t let anyone tell you that the penalties for shoplifting are minor – if charges are being pressed against you, the repercussions could affect your life for years to come.
There are defenses to shoplifting charges, though. The statute requires that the prosecution prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused had the intention to commit retail theft, which is not always easy. Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney Mark S. Lowry is very familiar with the defenses to shoplifting charges, and you can call his office today for a consultation.