Some parents will send you to your room or take away your privileges if they catch you stealing. Other parents will drive the car as you make off with hundreds of dollars of stolen merchandise.Patricia Kinchens, 35, took the latter route as she and her family attempted to steal items from a Walmart located near Leesburg. She was shopping with her two daughters, two sons, and her two sons’ girlfriends when the crew decided to walk out of the store without paying for their items. Their cart included a push lawnmower and a vehicle battery.A loss prevention officer pointed out the family’s car to police. When the officer went to approach the family, one of Kinchens’ sons yelled, “Mom, go!” and the family hit the road. They left with such haste that one of the items, a $150 air conditioner, fell from the car on the highway. Police officers later caught up with the family and retrieved 50 stolen items from their car. In total, the family stole close to $300 worth of merchandise.The seven people in the car were all arrested and charged on counts of retail theft or grand theft. Those charged include Kinchens’ daughters: Megan Lopez, 20, and Breanna Lopez, 19. Kinchens’ son, Alex Lopez, is 17. The rest of the people in the car were not publicly identified due to their age. On top of her theft charges, Patricia Kinchens also faces charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
How Is Shoplifting Defined in Florida?
Shoplifting, or retail theft, refers to the type of theft committed against a retail location or store. If you sneak a treat from a candy store or take clothes from the mall without paying for them, you have committed retail theft.There are many types of theft charges in the state of Florida: larceny, fraud, burglary, and shoplifting. Retail theft typically does not involve confrontation or coercion in order to be committed.If you are charged with shoplifting, the severity of the penalties associated with the charge will vary based on the amount of merchandise that was stolen. Florida’s guidelines for shoplifting penalties are as follows:
- Stealing under $100 is a misdemeanor charge of second degree petit theft. Penalties include up to 60 days in prison and/or fines of up to $500.
- Stealing between $100 and $300 is a misdemeanor charge of first degree petit theft. Penalties include up to 1 year in prison and/or fines of up to $1,000.
- Stealing between $300 and $20,000 is a felony charge of third degree grand theft. Penalties include up to five years in prison and fines of up to $5,000.
- Stealing between $20,000 and $100,000 is a felony charge of second degree grand theft. Penalties include up to 15 years in prison and/or fines of up to $10,000.
- Stealing Over $100,000 is a felony charge of first degree grand theft. Penalties include up to 30 years in prison and/or fines of up to $10,000.
There are many exceptions to these rules. For example, if you steal less than $100 but are facing your second conviction, you will be charged with first degree petit theft. If you cause over $1,000 in property damage, you will be charged with first degree grand theft. If you steal between $100 and $300 from a person’s home, you will be charged with third degree grand theft.The type of items that were stolen make a difference as well. If you steal a firearm, will, or motor vehicle, you will be charged with third degree grand theft. Stealing $300 worth of medical or law enforcement equipment will result in a second degree grand theft charge.You may face additional charges beyond the criminal charges ordered by law enforcement. If a shop or business owner wants to press civil charges against a shoplifter, they can sue for the following in civil court:
- Three times the amount of goods stolen or damage incurred
- Attorney’s fees
- Court costs
Defending Shoplifting Charges
Whether you are accused after you have already left a store or you are caught on video camera stealing something from a store, there are ways to defend yourself and get your charges dropped.Alibis, mishandling a case, and the diagnosis of an impulse disorder are all examples of ways to prove your innocence in this type of case. Knowing all of the legal exceptions to the rules for sentencing above could also lessen your penalties, especially if you are mistakenly charged for stealing certain items.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.