Retail Theft and Shoplifting
If you have been charged with shoplifting, you could face potentially harsh penalties, including criminal punishment and consequences that can affect your reputation and personal life. For example, many employers require an applicant to disclose if they were convicted of retail theft, as the offense is considered a crime of dishonesty. This disclosure must be made even if the offense was a simple misdemeanor, or the amount of the theft was an insignificant amount.
Additional penalties for shoplifting or retail theft can result in jail or prison terms, fines, driver license suspension, civil penalties and restitution for the amount of the property stolen. Other terms commonly associated with retail theft can be petit theft, grand theft or shoplifting.
Shoplifting or Retail Theft Offenses under Florida Law
Retail Theft, more commonly known as shoplifting, is defined as taking possession of merchandise, property or money with the intent to deprive the merchant of the use, benefit, possession or full retail value of the item under Fla. Stat. § 812.015.
A person can also commit retail theft if they alter or remove labels or tags, move merchandise from one container to another, or remove a shopping cart from a merchant. It is also unlawful for anyone to possess any countermeasure to an anti-shoplifting or inventory control device.
If the value of the property is less than $300, this is petit theft under Fla. Stat. § 812.014. Petit Theft can be in the first or second degree, and is any theft that is not grand theft. Punishments for petit theft will vary depending on the degree of the petit theft.
Grand theft occurs if the value of the property taken is $300 or more according to Fla. Stat. § 812.014. Grand thefts can be in the first, second or third degree, with punishments varying depending on the degree of the theft.
Punishments for Shoplifting in Florida
If someone is convicted of shoplifting, they can be sentenced to the penalties associated with a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the number of prior convictions and the amount of the item stolen.
A Misdemeanor of the Second Degree conviction can result in fines up to $500 and/or up to 60 days in county jail. Petit theft in the second degree is a misdemeanor of the second degree.
A conviction for a Misdemeanor of the First Degree can lead to a jail sentence up to one year and/or fines not exceeding $1,000. Petit theft in the first degree is a misdemeanor of the first degree.
A person convicted of a Felony of the Third Degree can incur a prison sentence up to five years and/or fines up to $5,000. Retail theft if the property is valued at $300 or more or grand theft in the third degree are felonies in the third degree.
A Felony of the Second Degree can result in imprisonment in Florida prison not more than 15 years and/or fines not exceeding $10,000. Shoplifting in an amount of $3,000 or more and grand theft in the second degree are felonies of the second degree.
A conviction for a Felony of the First Degree can result in a Florida prison sentence up to 30 years or even life imprisonment, and/or fines not in excess of $10,000. Grand theft in the first degree is a felony of the first degree.
However, diversion programs may be available for first time offenders that may require the alleged offender to pay court costs and other fines, take part in community service, and possible completion of shoplifting prevention classes.
Other Repercussions to Shoplifting
Anyone who has been convicted of petit theft is required to be fingerprinted, and their name will be recorded in a national database for employer background searches according to the Florida Fingerprint Requirement.
Anyone who has been convicted of a theft misdemeanor can have their driver’s license suspended for six months to one year, and if the conviction is a second offense, their driver’s license is required to be suspended.
Additional fines and restitution can be imposed on anyone convicted of shoplifting up to double the gross value of the item take.
Anyone found guilty of shoplifting can also face civil penalties under Fla. Stat. § 772.11. Many large retail establishments will collect the personal information of the alleged offender and turn this information over to law firms that act as collection agencies. The law firm will then send a letter to the alleged shoplifter demanding a civil penalty be paid to the retailer. This Civil Penalty Demand Letter will usually demand a fee around $200 be paid within 30 days. If it is not, the letter will usually state the retailer will take further action. This type of suit is for civil proceedings and does not bar criminal prosecution. It is imperative to hire an attorney in this situation to defend your best interest.
Evidence to Prove Shoplifting
If you have been arrested for shoplifting, the prosecution will usually look for the following types of evidence when prosecuting your case:
- Testimony from employees of the merchant or establishment from where the item was allegedly taken
- Any surveillance camera
- Testimony from other eyewitnesses