Most people have been tempted to shoplift at one time or another. Whether you really wanted an article of clothing or an item of food that you couldn’t afford, or you were being “dared” by friends when you were a teenager, retail theft is almost a rite of passage.If you’re at a big chain like Walmart, you may even feel like you can justify the theft: what’s a few dollars missing from a billion-dollar retail giant? How serious could shoplifting a pair of shoes or a few groceries be?When it comes to the economic impact on a big store like Walmart, sure, a few hundred dollars may not make a difference. However, as the person committing retail theft, a few hundred dollars in your pocket could lead to a few years in jail.
How Florida Determines Retail Theft Penalties
Not all retail theft is equal under Florida law. Charges for retail theft can range from a misdemeanor (often called “petit theft”) to a felony (“grand theft”), and those charges are determined largely by a few different factors:
- Value of the merchandise stolen
- Previous convictions for retail theft
- Type of merchandise or goods stolen
- If damage resulted during the course of the theft
- What devices were used to commit the theft
Let’s briefly look at the last factor. Someone can commit retail theft by taking merchandise and walking out of a store without paying for that merchandise. We’ve all seen a store that has sensors or cameras that prevent theft from happening in the first place. If a shoplifter tampers, or attempts to tamper with, these “antishoplifting or inventory control devices,” they will be charged with a felony in the third degree. The value of the merchandise is not considered with this charge.Otherwise, Florida law determines the charges and penalties for retail theft by the combined value of the merchandise that was stolen and the offender’s criminal history.
Florida Retail Theft Charges and Penalties, Based on the Value of Goods/Merchandise Stolen
Under $100: Misdemeanor in the second degree; fines up to $500, up to 60 days in jailUnder $100, Previous Theft Conviction(s): Misdemeanor in the first degree; fines up to $1,000, up to one year in jailBetween $100-$300: Misdemeanor in the first degree; fines up to $1,000, up to one year in jail Between $300-$20,000: Felony of the third degree; fines up to $5,000; up to five years in prisonBetween $20,000-$100,000: Felony of the second degree; fines up to $10,000, up to 15 years in prisonOver $100,000: Felony of the first degree; fines up to $10,000, up to 30 years in prison
Additional penalties will occur if the merchandise stolen included motor vehicles or firearms. For a second or subsequent conviction, judges may also order the defendant to complete public service. Your driver’s license may also be suspended.
Charged with Retail Theft?
If you are charged with misdemeanor theft, you must consider the penalties after a conviction, and how it will affect your future. Convictions will only add to the severity of future charges, and leave a dirty mark on your criminal record that can affect employment.If you have been arrested or charged with retail theft, you still have an opportunity to avoid a conviction. Call a Florida theft lawyer today to learn more about possible defenses for your case, and how you can get your charges dropped.About the Author:Attorney David W. Olson is the founder of the Law Offices of David W. Olson in West Palm Beach. He has been practicing criminal law and successfully representing clients throughout the State of Florida for over 30 years. Throughout his legal career, Mr. Olson has been honored numerous times for both his dedication and excellence in criminal law. He proudly holds the Martindale-Hubbell AV Rating, as well as being recognized as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer (2013), in the Nation’s Top One Percent of attorneys (2015), and as a 10 Best Member of the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys (2015). He has even received commendations from members of congress and other public officials for the fantastic work that he's done. Mr. Olson graduated from the University of Florida’s Fredric G. Levin College of Law in 1981 and has been a member of the Florida Bar since 1983.