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While many people believe shoplifting is not a terribly serious offense, the truth is that a retail theft crime can become a felony offense when the value of the property allegedly stolen exceeds a certain amount. In addition to harsh criminal penalties such as imprisonment and fines, a conviction can also carry several additional long-term consequences because of having the criminal charge reflected on a person’s criminal record. Let the Miami shoplifting and retail theft lawyer at The Hoffman Firm fight for you.
Retail theft—more commonly referred to as shoplifting—has multiple definitions under state law in Florida.
Florida Statute § 812.015(1)(d) 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
- Removing a shopping cart, with intent to deprive the merchant of possession, use, benefit, or full retail value
Depending on the value of the property allegedly stolen, a retail theft offense can be classified as either petit theft or grand theft.
The general classifications by property value include:
- Less than $100 — Second degree misdemeanor offense of petit theft of the second degree punishable by up to 60 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $500
- $100 or more, but less than $300 — Second degree misdemeanor offense of petit theft of the second degree punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000
- $300 or more, but less than $20,000 — Third degree felony offense of grand theft of the third degree punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000
- $20,000 or more, but less than $100,000 — Second degree felony offense of grand theft in the second degree punishable by up to 15 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000
- $100,000 or more — First degree felony offense of grand theft in the first degree punishable by up to 30 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000
Under Florida Statute § 812.015(8), retail theft can also be a third degree felony if the value of the property allegedly stolen is $300 or more and the alleged offender:
- Coordinates the activities of one or more individuals in committing the offense, in which case the amount of each individual theft is aggregated to determine the value of the property stolen
- Commits theft from more than one location within a 48-hour period, in which case the amount of each individual theft is aggregated to determine the value of the property stolen
- Acts in concert with one or more other individuals within one or more establishments to distract the merchant, merchant’s employee, or law enforcement officer in order to carry out the offense, or acts in other ways to coordinate efforts to carry out the offense
- Commits the offense through the purchase of merchandise in a package or box that contains merchandise other than, or in addition to, the merchandise purported to be contained in the package or box
If the alleged offender has been previously convicted of one of the offenses listed above or coordinates the activities of one or more persons in committing the offense of retail theft where the stolen property has a value in excess of $3,000, the crime is a second degree felony.
Civil Retail Theft Penalties
In addition to criminal charges for shoplifting, alleged offenders can also be subject to civil claims by retail establishments. Florida Statute § 772.11 establishes that any people who prove “by clear and convincing evidence” that they have been injured in any fashion by theft crimes have causes of action for threefold the actual damages sustained and, in any such actions, are entitled to minimum damages in the amount of $200, and reasonable attorney’s fees and court costs in the trial and appellate courts.
While the property allegedly stolen in most shoplifting cases is recovered and returned to merchants, thus leading to no actual monetary damages, some establishments may turn the alleged offender’s information over to third-party law firms that then send the alleged offenders civil demand letters seeking payment of damages. The letters will typically state that failure to pay the damages will result in the firm filing a civil lawsuit.
Many people are understandably concerned about the language in these letters and the possible financial penalties, but the truth is that alleged offenders are rarely (if ever) actually sued in shoplifting cases. An experienced criminal defense attorney can contact the agency behind these letters and put an end to these communications.
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