Shoplifting Attorneys in Hollywood Advising Clients on Their Rights and Defense Options
We’ve all walked through the doors to leave a store and immediately heard the beeping of the security system. In many cases, it’s a false alarm, and you’re free to go. But what happens if you’re found with stolen or altered merchandise? If you’ve been accused of shoplifting, it’s important to know your rights and what these charges could mean for your future. Keep reading to learn more about how shoplifting charges are handled in Florida.
One mistake can have a lasting impact if it involves criminal charges. While many instances of shoplifting will result in only misdemeanor charges, it is possible to end up with a felony conviction. It’s vital that you discuss your case with a criminal defense attorney who has experience with these types of charges and can provide counsel about your options and next steps.
What Is the Legal Definition of Shoplifting?
In Florida, shoplifting is referred to as retail theft and can be charged as either petit theft or grand theft, depending on the value of the merchandise. Statute 812.015 states that retail theft is “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.”
Note that you don’t have to actually remove the merchandise from the store to be charged with retail theft. Any attempt to change or remove the price tag also qualifies. However, the law does state that the action has to be done with the intent to keep the store from getting the full money for the product. This can be a pillar for a defense strategy if you can show that there was no intent to defraud the store.
Is Shoplifting a Misdemeanor or a Felony?
It’s a common misconception that shoplifting is only a misdemeanor crime and, therefore, isn’t something to worry about or get an attorney for if you have been arrested and charged. But this isn’t necessarily true. When you’re charged with shoplifting, you can be charged with either petit theft or grand theft. Petit theft is a misdemeanor offense and can be charged as either a second-degree or first-degree misdemeanor. If the value of the merchandise is under $100, it’s a second-degree misdemeanor. If the value is between $101 and $300, it’s a second-degree misdemeanor. If the value is more than $300 but less than $5,000, the charge gets escalated to grand theft, which is a third-degree felony. Previous misdemeanor convictions for retail theft can also mean that subsequent convictions are charged at the felony level.
Can I Be Charged With Shoplifting If It Was Accidental?
Accidentally walking out of a store without paying for all of the merchandise is actually much more common than you might think. Sometimes, a child might put a toy or candy bar in their pocket without your knowledge. You could leave the store without realizing that you’re still carrying an item you didn’t pay for. And it’s common for accidental shoplifting to occur if you use the self-checkout because you may forget an item at the bottom of the cart or think an item scanned when it didn’t.
Because the law says that retail theft must involve the intent to commit the crime, you can’t be charged if it was an accident. However, being able to provide proof that it was accidental can be more difficult. Some people don’t involve an attorney because they know they did it on accident and believe that the charges will be dropped, but this isn’t always the case. Even if the theft was accidental, you still need to talk with an attorney and have legal representation who can help you provide a strong defense.
Is It Legal for a Store to Search Me?
It’s common for store employees to ask to search your shopping bags or your purse if you set off the security alarm. However, you don’t have to comply. Any search conducted by security at the store must be done with your consent. Some stores have signs as you go in that by continuing into the store, you are giving them consent to search your bag if they choose to do so. A police officer can search your person if they have reasonable suspicion that a crime has occurred, but this is rare when it comes to shoplifting cases. Security guards can, however, refuse to allow you back into the store if you don’t comply with the search.
What Are the Consequences of Shoplifting?
The potential consequences for shoplifting depend on whether you’re charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. If you’re charged with petit theft in the second degree, you could face up to 60 days in the county jail and a fine of up to $500. If you’re charged with petit theft in the first degree, the amount of jail time can go up to 1 year, and the fine increases to a maximum of $1,000. If you’re charged with second-degree grand theft, you could face up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. You may also have your driver’s license suspended.
At Magilligan Law, we understand that even minor charges can have a big impact on your life. Our attorneys do everything they can to ensure that your rights are protected and that your future doesn’t include jail time. Find out how we can help and schedule a free 15-minute case evaluation when you call our Hollywood, Florida, office at 954-866-8058.