To many, shoplifting is seen as a seemingly insignificant criminal offense, one committed by little children who have sticky fingers. This is a wrong idea to have — shoplifting is taken very seriously under Florida criminal law and a shoplifting charge can result in severe civil and even criminal penalties. An experienced Miami criminal defense attorney can fight for the best possible outcome for those facing shoplifting charges.
Shoplifting According to Florida Criminal Law
According to Florida criminal law, shoplifting is referred to as retail theft, which is is committed when a person “knowingly obtains or uses, or endeavors to obtain or to use, the property of another with intent to, either temporarily or permanently:
- Deprive the other person of right to the property or a benefit from the property
- Appropriate the property to his or her own use or to the use of any person not entitled to the use of the property”
Shoplifting is not only committed when someone takes possession of the property of a merchant without paying. The term also encompasses:
- altering labels or price tags on merchandise
- transferring merchandise from one container to another
- taking away shopping carts
Depending on the value of the stolen property, the offender’s theft record, and the circumstances surrounding the criminal act, retail theft can either be classified as petit theft or grand theft — leading to misdemeanor or felony charges respectively.
Petit Theft or Grand Theft Criminal Penalties
|Stolen Property Value||Classification||Charge||Penalty|
|Less than $100||Second Degree Petit Theft||Second Degree Misdemeanor||Prison sentence of up to 60 days
Fines up to $500
|$100 or more; less than $300||First Degree Petit Theft||First Degree Misdemeanor||Prison sentence of up to 1 year
Fines up to $1,000
|$300 or more; less than $20,000||Third Degree Grand Theft||Third Degree Felony||Prison sentence of up to 5 years
Fines up to $5,000
|$20,000 or more; less than $100,000||Second Degree Grand Theft||Second Degree Felony||Prison sentence of up to 15 years
Fines up to $10,000
|$100,000 or more; more than $1,000 in property damage caused during the theft||First Degree Grand Theft||First Degree Felony||Prison sentence of up to 30 years
Fines up to $10,000
Charges can be bumped up if the offender has previous theft convictions on their criminal record or if the crime was committed using physical assault, threatened or realized.
In Florida, those charged with misdemeanor shoplifting, especially first time offenders, are sometimes given the opportunity to avoid jail time and keep theft convictions off their record by entering a pre-trial intervention program which often includes paying fees and attending rehabilitation counseling.
Shoplifting can also result in civil liability. Merchants who fall victim to retail theft can sue adults, emancipated minors, and the parents or legal guardians of unemancipated minors in civil court. First, merchants must make a written demand for payment of the stolen retail damages. If the shoplifter responds and complies with the demand within 30 days, then the merchant must provide a written release from civil liability.
However, if the written demand goes unanswered and the merchant’s lawsuit goes forward, the offender may be liable for:
- a minimum of $200 in damages
- three times the actual damages sustained by the merchant
- reimbursement of merchant’s attorney’s fees and court costs
Someone convicted of any misdemeanor theft may have their driver’s license suspended. Under Florida criminal law, drivers license suspension of six months to one year is required for second and first degree petit theft charges.
Shoplifting is clearly not considered a minor offense under Florida criminal law. A retail theft conviction and the resulting civil and criminal penalties are severe and can have far-reaching consequences on one’s life and financial, educational, or professional future.
If you or a loved one is facing a shoplifting charge, enlist the expertise of a Miami criminal defense attorney. Our attorneys are skilled at defending our clients’ rights in court and working towards achieving the best possible outcomes.
Call Pimentel & Castillo today for a free consultation.