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Shoplifting Crimes In Florida
Many people think that shoplifting is mere petty crime, not particularly deserving of serious consequences. However, Florida authorities take shoplifting quite seriously, and if you have been charged with this type of crime, you need to enlist a West Palm Beach theft crimes lawyer as soon as possible, to ensure that your rights are protected.
Charges Will Vary
There is no shoplifting charge, per se, in Florida. The offense is referred to as “retail theft,” and it is most often lumped in with most other crimes involving larceny under the umbrella of general theft crimes. While most people think that shoplifting is only the act of taking merchandise from a store without paying for it, Florida law actually explicitly includes other actions under retail theft as well. Examples include altering labels or price tags, swapping merchandise from one container to another, and any other action intended to “deprive” the merchant of their merchandise’s use or benefit.
Shoplifting can be charged as either grand theft or petit theft, depending on the value of the property stolen. The level of the charge will also be affected if this is not your first arrest for theft crimes, as prosecutors may have discretion to raise or lower the charge depending on the situation. Generally, however, if the stolen merchandise costs more than $750, your case will be charged as a felony, while if the cost is less than $750, you will be charged with a misdemeanor. The former limit for felony theft was $300, but in July 2019, Governor DeSantis signed a bill into law raising the limit to $750.
Criminal And Civil Penalties Possible
It is important to understand that merchants do have certain “self-help” rights under Florida law. If a merchant’s staff or security have probable cause to believe that you are in possession of stolen property, they do have the right to take you into temporary custody while law enforcement is called, with no liability for false imprisonment as long as the custody is “reasonable” and for an appropriate length of time. Resisting these attempts to take you into custody is a first-degree misdemeanor.
In addition, merchants have the right to sue adult shoplifters (or the parents of child shoplifters) for civil damages totaling up to three times the damages (at least $200 minimum in damages), as well as for reasonable attorney’s fees and court costs. The merchant must make a written demand – usually they will send a letter to your home – and the shoplifter must pay within 30 days or face civil liability as well as criminal charges.
Call A West Palm Beach Retail Theft Attorney
Many people, especially younger adults and children, may see shoplifting as a rite of passage or other type of harmless action, but in reality, a retail theft charge can cause serious havoc if you are convicted. The West Palm Beach theft crime attorneys at the firm of Perlet, Shiner, Melchiorre & Walsh, P.A. have years of experience with retail theft matters, and are ready and willing to try and assist you with yours. Contact our office today to schedule an appointment.