When Does Shoplifting Become a Felony Offense in Florida?
It’s fair to assume that many of us have considered casually taking merchandise from a favorite or frequented retailer. After all, what difference will one minor item make? They won’t even notice it’s gone! These companies make billions of dollars in profits, while many of us are struggling to make ends meet. I spend hundreds of dollars here throughout the year, don’t they owe me a gift?
These are all common trains of thought among people who contemplate stealing merchandise from retailers. Shoplifting in stores, especially big box stores like Target or Walmart, seems like a victimless crime. What they fail to consider is the damage their actions do to the economy and the harm they could personally face through a criminal charge.
American businesses lose almost $50 billion a year to theft. Shoplifting makes up 36.5% of these losses, according to the yearly National Retail Security Survey conducted by the National Retail Federation. Many retailers are fighting back with extra security measures, including in-store guards and hidden cameras. It’s much easier to get caught than many people realize, yet shoplifting remains one of the most common property crimes in Florida.
What some people fail to realize when they attempt to shoplift are the consequences they could face if they get caught, charged, and convicted. Shoplifting is treated seriously by the courts. Any shoplifting charge should be defended by a keen criminal lawyer who keeps up with changes in the laws surrounding retail theft in Florida.
What is considered “retail theft” in Florida?
Shoplifting is legally referred to as retail theft and may consist of actions other than taking merchandise from a store without paying for it. The following actions are considered retail theft crimes:
- Altering labels or swapping price tags
- Transferring merchandise from one container to another
- Hiding merchandise in larger merchandise
- Removing a shopping cart containing merchandise from the premises with the intent to deprive a merchant of the possession, use, benefit, or full retail value.
Retail employees who suspect shoplifting may report the suspect to their managers or Loss Prevention departments immediately. If they catch you, you may be detained for a reasonable period while they attempt to retrieve the merchandise and get the police on the scene to file a report and charges.
When is Shoplifting a Petit Theft or Felony Theft?
Shoplifting is a form of theft which is defined in Statute 812.014 of the 2019 Florida Statutes. Petit theft refers to the theft of merchandise valued at less than $750, while shoplifting items valued at $750 or more is a felony offense. So, if you steal $750 or $750 worth of goods, you commit a felony offense in Florida.
Florida Increases Felony Theft Threshold for the First Time in 35 Years
For years, Florida had fallen behind other states that have increased the felony theft threshold to keep up with the times. The felony theft threshold is the minimum value necessary to tip the scale of a theft crime from a misdemeanor to a felony. This threshold is determined by individual states, which is why it varies throughout the country.
At $750, Florida’s threshold remains far below that of other states. Lawmakers reached this figure through a compromise between advocates seeking to reform the statute and powerful corporations wanting to keep the threshold low. Companies like Publix, Walmart, and others fought the increased threshold out of fear that a higher limit would entice criminals to lift higher-priced merchandise. While $750 is an improvement over the state’s previous $300 threshold, it’s eclipsed by thresholds in neighboring states like Georgia, where the limit is $1,500.
Possible Penalties for First, Second, and Third-Degree Grand Theft
If you’re accused of shoplifting in Orlando, you could incur a third-degree felony theft charge for merchandise starting at just $750. If the items that were stolen are worth $750-$19,999.99 you can expect a third-degree felony charge. Penalties for a third-degree grand theft may include:
- A sentence of up to 5 years in state prison; and/or
- A fine of up to $5,000
Items valued at between $20,000 and $99,999.99 incur a second-degree grand theft charge. Penalties are more severe and may include:
- A sentence of up to 15 years in state prison; and/or
- A $10,000 fine
Anything worth $100,000 or more may lead to a first-degree grand theft felony charge. You may face a maximum penalty of:
- A sentence of 30 years in state prison; and/or
- A fine of $10,000.
Any felony charge deserves competent representation by a knowledgeable and experienced defense attorney. If you face a theft charge, it’s in your best interest to consult with a private attorney immediately.
Trust Orlando’s Premier Shoplifting Defense Lawyers to Secure Your Future
The Umansky Law Firm has served people facing criminal charges in Central Florida for decades. Our team of attorneys has more than 100 years of combined experience defending criminal charges of all kinds. If you face a charge of retail theft, don’t lose hope. You can count on us to investigate all the evidence against you and develop a strong defense plan.
Our team strives to protect your reputation and your future. We will use all available resources to help mitigate your charges and any associated penalties in court. Having worked as former state prosecutors, we understand how the state will approach your retail theft case. Our lawyers are part of Florida Trend’s Legal Elite and have many favorable reviews on Avvo and Yelp. Call our office for a free consultation today or complete our contact form.