Questions About Shoplifting Charges in Florida
Shoplifting doesn’t seem like a major criminal offense when you compare it to violent crimes, drunk driving, or fraud, which is why many people may be tempted to swipe an item here or there. After all, you might assume the value of the merchandise isn’t high enough to worry about severe penalties. However, the opposite is true under Florida’s law on retail theft. The crime may be charged as a misdemeanor or felony, so you could be looking at prison time, hefty fines, and other punishment for a conviction.
If you were arrested for shoplifting, you do have legal options. It may be possible to fight the charges or reduce them to a lesser crime, which means less severe penalties. You’ll need a qualified Florida theft crimes attorney to assist with your defense, but some answers to your initial questions may help.
How does Florida law define shoplifting? You could be charged with shoplifting if you knowingly obtain or use merchandise with the intent to deprive the store owner of the item. As such, the definition includes many different types of conduct besides putting something in your pocket and walking out. Examples of acts that could constitute criminal retail theft include:
- Changing a price tag so you have to pay less at checkout;
- Altering or disabling an anti-theft device;
- Taking a shopping cart;
- Placing merchandise in the wrong box; and,
- Many others.
Can I be charged if I don’t leave the store with merchandise? Based upon the above examples, you can see that – yes, you could be arrested for shoplifting even if you remain on the store premises. All that’s necessary for a prosecutor to get a conviction is that you moved or exercised some control over the item in a way that’s not consistent with the store’s ownership. Still, it’s likely that the owner or security personnel will probably wait until you leave if they suspect shoplifting.
What is the punishment if I’m convicted for shoplifting? The basis for criminal penalties depends upon the value of the item you stole and your criminal history. For instance:
- Under $100 = Second Degree Misdemeanor: You face up to 60 days’ incarceration and a fine up to $500.
- For items between $101 and $300 = First Degree Misdemeanor: Your punishment may include a maximum of one year imprisonment and a $1,000 fine.
- Merchandise valued at $301 to $500 = Third Degree Felony: A judge could sentence you to five years in prison and a maximum $5,000 fine.
Because of the potential punishment, you can see that it’s not in your best interests to simply plead guilty to shoplifting. You should first discuss your case with an attorney who can determine whether you have a defense to the charges.
Reach Out to a Florida Theft Crimes Defense Lawyer About Your Options
To learn more about strategies for defending the charges, please contact Fort Lauderdale theft attorney Kevin J. Kulik. We can set up a free case evaluation to review your circumstances and determine the best way to obtain a favorable outcome.