A charge of retail theft, commonly known as shoplifting, is one of the most common criminal offenses committed. Sometimes a charge can be the result of a misunderstanding, but employees can be aggressive when protecting a store’s merchandise. In 2012, over 600,000 property crimes were reported in Florida, and while shoplifting may seem minor compared to burglary, but even this charge can have a big impact on your future.
Florida Statute §812.015 defines that a person faces a shoplifting charge if:
• The person takes possession of a store’s merchandise, property, or money with the intent to deprive the vendor of the value of the item
• The person alters or removes price tags or items in order to deceive the vendor
• The person removes anti-theft devices from merchandise before paying for the item
This means that you can face a theft charge for intending to steal an item, preparing to steal it, or trying to fool employees about an item’s value while purchasing it. The bottom line comes down to the intent to keep the merchant from receiving the profit due to them from an item.
Many young individuals go through a phase of shoplifting, for various reasons. It may make them feel empowered, of they may just see it as a game, but being caught and charged with theft can have negative serious consequences that affect them for years to come. Even if the offender is under 18, they still can face heavy fines and jail time if charged with theft.
The severity of this offense varies depending on several factors. Firstly, the value of the item in question effects how the charge is categorized. The categorization of shoplifting crimes differs by state, but Florida Statute §812.015 states that if the property’s value was less than $300, the offense is considered “petit theft”, sometimes called petty theft. Most shoplifting charges fall under this category. However, if the value is higher than $300, the crime is grand theft and carries more severe penalties. If a person engages in repeated acts of shoplifting, such as a string of thefts across various stores in a region, the total of items stolen can quickly qualify them for a grand theft charge.
Based on prior criminal history, a person facing a petty theft charge in Florida faces a possibility of up to 60 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. For a grand theft charge, a person faces up to 30 years in prison, as well and a maximum fine of $10,000.
The consequences of shoplifting in Florida go beyond jail time and fines, however. If you are convicted, a mark will be added to your criminal history. Being marked as a thief can have a lasting impact on opportunities for housing, education, and especially employment. A grand theft charge is a felony, and most job applications include a question regarding past felony convictions. You will be forced to disclose your past conviction, and this can have a major impact on the possibility of a job. An attorney may be able to help you keep this offense from staining your criminal history and marring your future opportunities.
Clay Adkinson serves the DeFuniak Springs area as a criminal defense attorney, who represents those facing property crimes such as theft and dealing in stolen property. He currently practices at Adkinson Law Firm, where he has helped hundreds who are facing difficult times due to a criminal charge throughout Walton County.