The holidays are a time for family and for reflecting upon the year that is ending and the one that is to come. Unfortunately, the holidays are also a time for shoplifting in Florida, as shopkeepers typically report a rise in the crime around the holidays. According to Florida’s law enforcement community, shoplifting accounts for about a fifth of all larceny cases prosecuted in the state each year. Shoplifting in Florida is a serious crime with serious consequences for a conviction, so grab a cup of eggnog and learn what you need to know about shoplifting in Florida should you find yourself charged with the crime.
In Florida, shoplifting is prosecuted under Section 812.014, which defines the crime of theft. Florida law defines retail theft as
“the taking possession of or carrying away of merchandise, property, money, or negotiable documents; altering or removing a label, universal product code, or price tag; transferring merchandise from one container to another; or removing a shopping cart, with intent to deprive the merchant of possession, use, benefit, or full retail value.”
Typically, shoplifting consists of two distinct parts. First, the shoplifter takes an item from a store and either conceals it on his person or removes it from the store’s premises. Second, the shoplifter had the willful intent to take the item from the store without paying for it. Both parts must be present for a successful prosecution of shoplifting – if either part can be proven to not have happened at the time of the alleged crime, an acquittal is the correct result.
Note that the alleged shoplifter does not necessarily need to leave the store to be charged with shoplifting. Frequently concealing an item of inventory on one’s person is enough to lead to arrest and to prove the first element of shoplifting in court. Removing or changing labeling on merchandise has also been sufficient to prove the first element in Florida courts as well.
Florida law divides theft into two broad categories
Grand theft and
petit (or petty) theft.
These two broad categories are defined by the value of the goods stolen by the defendant. Petty theft in Florida is defined as stealing goods with a value of up to $750. If the value of the property is under $100, the charge is petit theft in the second degree, while the theft of property valued at between $100 and $750 is petit theft in the first degree. Additionally, if the defendant has a prior conviction for theft, the charge is automatically classified as petit theft in the first degree.
Grand theft is theft of property valued at between $750 and $20,000. Grand theft charges start out as a third degree felony, but those charges can become second or even first degree felonies should the value of the property stolen exceed $20,000 or if the theft occurs during a riot.
Just as the severity of the crime of shoplifting increases with the value of the goods stolen, so too does the punishment. A conviction of petit theft can lead to up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Meanwhile, a conviction of grand theft in Florida can lead to a prison term of up to 15 years and a fine of up to $10,000.