According to U.S. News and World Report, Sarasota, Florida, had a lower-than-average crime rate in 2020. While the city is a fairly safe place, crime still occurs, and much of the time it is petty crimes, such as shoplifting.
This common form of theft may seem small, but it can lead to serious legal consequences.
Shoplifting is the act of intentionally taking possession of, carrying away or concealing merchandise or goods for sale with the intent to deprive the merchant of the full retail value of the items. It can also involve altering or removing price tags or packaging to pay less than the intended price.
One crucial aspect of shoplifting is intent. For a prosecutor to charge someone with shoplifting, they must prove that the individual had the intent to deprive the merchant of the full value of the merchandise. Without intent, the prosecutor may have trouble proving an act is shoplifting.
Penalties for shoplifting
The penalties for shoplifting vary depending on the value of the stolen merchandise and whether the accused has prior convictions.
For individuals with no prior theft convictions accused of taking merchandise with a value less than $750, they would face a misdemeanor in the second-degree charge. Penalties may include fines of up to $500 and a maximum of 60 days in jail.
If an individual has prior theft convictions and commits shoplifting again, or if the merchandise has a value of $750 or more, it becomes a more serious offense. This can result in felony charges, which carry stiffer penalties, including higher fines and longer prison sentences.
Minors accused of shoplifting may face consequences through the juvenile justice system. The penalties for juvenile offenders aim to provide rehabilitation and education rather than harsh punishment.
In addition to criminal charges, individuals may also face civil penalties. Merchants can pursue civil lawsuits to recover damages, which may include the full retail value of the stolen merchandise, attorney fees and court costs.
A shoplifting conviction can have long-lasting consequences beyond immediate penalties. A criminal record can impact employment opportunities, housing and eligibility for certain government benefits. To avoid these ramifications, it is important to understand shoplifting laws.