What Happens If You Are Caught Shoplifting in Florida?

Teens are known for pushing boundaries, which often means breaking some laws. A common offense among young people is shoplifting, but it is not just teens who steal.

The National Association for Shoplifting Prevention reports that 1 in 4 youths have shoplifted before they turned 16 years old and 1 in 11 of all Americans shoplift. They estimate that there are 27 million shoplifters.

What is Shoplifting in Florida?

Florida statute¬†812.015¬†describes the penalties for “retail theft,” which is what we call shoplifting. It includes these actions:

  • Taking a possession
  • Carrying away merchandise
  • Taking property, money or negotiable documents
  • Altering or removing a label, product code or price tag
  • Transferring products to other containers
  • Removing a shopping cart with intent to take from the merchant

Penalties for Shoplifting in Florida

Though shoplifting may feel like a minor offense to some, it can have very real consequences. However, they do depend on the value of what is stolen.

If the shoplifted merchandise is less than $100 in value, you may be charged with petit theft in the second degree. This is a second-degree misdemeanor, which can result in up to 60 days in jail and up to $500 in fines. A second theft charge is then a first-degree misdemeanor and more theft offenses will become a third-degree felony.

If the value of the stolen products is more than $100 but less than $300, the charge will be petit theft in the first degree. This can result in up to a year in jail, a year of probation, up to $1,000 in fines, and a license suspension for six months. More than one offense adds a year of license suspension.

Merchandise that is stolen valued more than $300 and less than $5,000 is grand theft in the third degree, which can result in up to five years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines.

Shoplifting, though it sometimes is portrayed as innocent teen behavior, can have very real consequences.

Common Legal Defenses for Shoplifting in Florida

In Florida, the most commonly used legal defense in shoplifting cases is "lack of intent." For this defense to be valid, the accused must prove that there was no criminal intent to commit theft. This could include providing evidence that the item was mistakenly taken from the store or was taken for a legitimate purpose (such as returning it for a refund).

Other potential defenses include the following:

  • Mistake of Fact Defense: A mistake of fact occurs when someone honestly and reasonably believed that the item belonged to them or was already paid for.

  • Entrapment Defense: The defendant must prove that they were coerced by law enforcement into committing an act, which would have otherwise been lawful.

  • Intoxication Defense: If a person was so intoxicated that he/she did not know what they were doing, then this could be used as a legal defense in court.

  • Alibi Defense: Proving the accused was somewhere else when the crime occurred

  • Coercion Defense: Claiming another person forced or threatened them to shoplift

  • Necessity Defense: This is when the defendant had to do something illegal to prevent greater harm.

Though defenses may be valid in some cases, it is important for individuals to understand that shoplifting remains a serious crime with potential consequences in Florida. Depending on the value of items stolen and any prior convictions, an individual could face jail time or hefty fines if convicted of shoplifting. It is always best to avoid engaging in such activities as they can have long-term repercussions. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help assess the facts of your case and determine if any legal defense applies.

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