Theft can be a very serious crime, depending on the value of the allegedly stolen items. Florida has a lot of laws on the books that deal with theft, and shoplifting is covered by specific laws targeting retail theft. Generally speaking, the charges a person will face after shoplifting will vary, depending on the amount of merchandise and whether that person has a previous criminal record involving theft or shoplifting.
Unfortunately for consumers, retail theft laws are incredibly vague. That could result in innocent people getting charged with a crime over a small mistake. Maybe you were checking out after shopping and forgot about the large item underneath your cart. Maybe your purse or diaper bag was in your cart and something fell into it while you were selecting items. Either of these scenarios could result in criminal shoplifting charges if the store’s loss prevention or management teams becomes involved. It can be terrifying to get stopped on the way out of a store and accused of a crime like shoplifting.
How Florida classifies shoplifting offenses
Shoplifting falls into two primary categories for criminal charges: grand theft and petit theft. Petit theft, also called petty theft, involves merchandise or products worth less than $300. If the items are worth less than $100, the charges will be petit theft in the second degree. You could face $500 in fines and six months in jail for that nailpolish that ended up in your purse. If the value is between $100 and $300, the charges will be petit theft in the first degree. A large item under your cart that you forgot to ring up could easily result in up to a full year in jail and a fine of as much as $1,000.
Sometimes, the value of the items exceeds $300. This could be the case if you tried on a piece of designer clothing or fine jewelry, only to forget to remove it. For items with a value of between $300 and $20,000, shoplifting carries a third degree grand theft charge. Because it is a third degree felony, it carries more serious penalties, including as much as five years in jail and a fine of $5,000. Combine that with a criminal record that could affect your ability to find a great job and a simple misunderstanding could impact the rest of your life.
An attorney can help if you’re facing shoplifting charges
Even if you think shoplifting or petit theft charges are minor, the consequences are not. As soon as you’ve been arrested or charged, you should speak with an experienced Florida criminal defense attorney. Your attorney can help clarify the situation, which could result in charges being dropped. If you do go to court, your attorney can help you mount a vigorous defense and help fight for the least amount of impact possible.