15th Dec 2014
Shoplifters in Florida can face significant and stigmatizing criminal penalties, including jail time and fines. In addition, shoplifters can be sued for damages in civil court by victimized merchants. Lastly, a criminal record with a label of “theft” can have a very damaging impact on a person’s reputation, especially relevant in employment and professional licensing situations.
Being accused of shoplifting may be an embarrassing and frustrating event. Shoplifting and petit theft charges in the State of Florida can impact your permanent record, so you should always take your case seriously and retain the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Only an experienced criminal defense attorney can explore the circumstances of the allegations or arrest to look for details that can reduce or possibly dismiss your case entirely.
State of Florida Shoplifting Laws
Shoplifting in Florida is referred to as “retail theft” or “petit theft“. Cases are classified as misdemeanors or felonies depending on the value of what is alleged to have been taken. A value of more than $300.00 will classify the case as a “felony” whereas less than $300.00 will make it a “misdemeanor“. Retail theft can be committed in a variety of ways, including:
– taking possession of or carrying away the property of a merchant;
– altering labels or price tags;
– transferring merchandise from one container to another;
– or removing a shopping cart
– with intent to deprive the merchant of possession, use, benefit, or full retail value.
Stores/Merchants with probable cause that a person has committed shoplifting can detain the person in a reasonable manner, for a reasonable amount of time, in order to retrieve the goods or prosecute the suspect. Criminal and civil penalties for shoplifting are described as follow;
State of Florida Shoplifting Criminal Penalties
|Shoplifting property with a total combined value of less than $100Shoplifting property with a total combined value of $100 or more but less than $300; shoplifting property with a value of less than $100 if the person charged has previously been convicted once of any theft||Second degree petit theft (second degree misdemeanor)First degree petit theft (first degree misdemeanor)||Fines up to $500; up to 60 days in jailFines up to $1,000; up to 1 year in jail|
|Second or subsequent conviction of petit theft shopliftingShoplifting property with a total combined value of more than $300 and less than $20,000; or if the item taken is a firearm or certain other items||First or second degree petit theft (first or second degree misdemeanor)Third degree grand theft (third degree felony)||Fine between $50 and $1,000–court may substitute public service for fine; up to 60 days in jail or up to 1 year in jailFines up to $5,000; up to five years in prison|
|Shoplifting property with a total combined value of more than $20,000 and less than $100,000||Second degree grand theft (second degree felony)||Fines up to $10,000 and up to 15 years in prison|
|Shoplifting property with a total combined value of more than $100,000, or if in the course of a grand theft the offender causes damage to the real or personal property of another in excess of $1,000||First degree grand theft (first degree felony)||Fines up to $10,000 and up to 30 years in prison|
Shoplifters in Florida face serious criminal penalties, including jail time and fines. In addition, shoplifters can be sued for damages in civil court by victimized merchants.
In addition to being arrested, State of Florida laws permit a store or merchant to be able to sue an accused for civil penalties. If a juvenile is accused of shoplifting, it is possible for a lawsuit to be aimed at that juvenile’s parents. The penalties may include;
– three times the actual damages (called “treble damages”) sustained (with a minimum of $200 in damages);
– reasonable attorney’s fees; and
– court costs.
The merchant must first make a written demand, and if the shoplifter responds and pays the damages within 30 days, they will be released from liability. After a person is accused of shoplifting they very often receive a letter from a civil firm threatening to sue. Responding to this letter does not impact the criminal case. When handling shoplifting cases, the criminal case and threat of lawsuit must be handled simultaneously
Plea Bargains and Pretrial Diversion Programs
Some counties in Florida allow certain individuals accused of first-time and low-level crimes to participate in pretrial diversion programs. If an accused fulfills the requirements of the program, which could include restitution and community service, the criminal charges against them will be dropped.
If diversion is not available, it may be possible for an experienced criminal defense attorney to arrange a plea bargain with the prosecutor. Plea bargains typically involve obtaining lesser charges and lesser sentencing in exchange for a guilty plea, at the discretion of the prosecutor. It is not impossible to get a case conditionally dropped.
When a person is accused of shoplifting, it is best to immediately contact an experienced criminal defense attorney so that the matter is handled properly, any defenses can be developed and to try to avoid a tarnishing of a person’s reputation.