Many people consider shoplifting a minor crime and usually associate it with teenagers stealing clothing or candy bars. However, the U.S. retail industry estimates up to $50 billion in merchandise is lost each year by retailers, who take it very seriously.
In Florida, shoplifting is defined as “retail theft” and includes taking money, property or merchandise from a store. Altering a price tag to pay less than full price or removing shopping carts from a business can also be considered retail theft.
Florida shoplifting charges and penalties
Penalties for retail theft – i.e., shoplifting – in Florida can be quite severe depending upon a person’s criminal history and the value of the merchandise:
- Less than $100: Someone without a criminal record can be charged with second-degree “petit theft,” a misdemeanor, which can result in up to 60 days in jail and a fine up to $500. A suspect with a record can face a first-degree misdemeanor offense, and someone with two or more convictions can face a third-degree felony.
- Between $101 and $300: The charge is typically second-degree petit theft, which can result in one year in county jail, a $1,000 fine and up to one year of probation. Under state law, those convicted face a six-month driver’s license suspension for a first offense and up to a year’s suspension for subsequent convictions.
- Between $301 and $5,000: Suspects face grand theft charges, a third-degree felony, which is punishable by up to five years in state prison and up to a $5,000 fine.
Common defenses for shoplifting charges
If you face a retail theft charge, it’s crucial to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately to dispute the prosecutor’s case. Defense strategies include:
- The suspect concealed merchandise but had no intention to steal
- An eyewitness identifies the wrong suspect, or security personnel mistakenly interpret surveillance video
- The suspect accidentally removed merchandise from the store
- The suspect did not alter or remove a price tag or tamper with the universal product code (UPC)
- Negotiate a plea bargain
Regardless of whether you were the victim of mistaken identity, got distracted and forgot to put an item back, or you were caught trying to steal merchandise, your lawyer will find the best strategy to lessen charges and penalties. Even when an item’s price is low, the stakes are high for protecting your reputation and minimizing the potential harm to your future.