While taking retail merchandise without paying for it may not seem like a big deal to many people, law enforcement officers and court authorities in Florida certainly treat it as one. The dividing line between shoplifting being a misdemeanor versus a life-altering felony is thin. Even a misdemeanor conviction could seriously affect your personal and professional life moving forward.
If you are dealing with criminal charges related to an alleged shoplifting incident, your top priority should be to contact a Winter Garden shoplifting lawyer. Once retained, your dedicated theft defense attorney could explain exactly how state law approaches shoplifting offenses, what options you have for fighting the charges against you, and what course of action gives you the most favorable chance of a positive outcome.
Someone commits the act of shoplifting if they knowingly and intentionally do any of the following while inside a retail establishment:
In Florida, shoplifting is generally prosecuted as a form of theft as defined under Florida Statutes § 812.014, although repeat offenders and people working together with one or more accomplices may face enhanced penalties for “retail theft” under Fla. Stat. § 812.015. If someone shoplifts less than $100, or between $100 and $750 worth of merchandise, they may be prosecuted respectively for second-degree or first-degree misdemeanor theft, also known as petit theft.
However, if the value of the merchandise they allegedly took exceeds $750, their shoplifting offense will be prosecuted as felony grand theft in the third degree. As a Winter Garden shoplifting attorney could further explain, even a first-time offender convicted of grand theft may face steep fines and multiple years in prison in addition to civil liability for any damages they caused to the retailer.
The best defense against a shoplifting charge can change substantially from case to case, depending on the circumstances surrounding the defendant’s arrest – if one occurred (sometimes the prosecutor can file charges without an on-scene arrest). If possible, it is ideal to pursue a total dismissal of the charges by establishing that the defendant did not actually take any action which could legally be defined as shoplifting, but that is not possible in every situation.
Instead, it is sometimes best to negotiate for alternatives to criminal sentencing, such as participation in a pre-trial intervention program with help from a skilled shoplifting defense lawyer in Winter Garden. This is a good option if the defendant is a first-time offender. It is worth noting that Fla. Stat. § 812.0.155 allows courts to suspend, revoke, or withhold issuance of the driver’s license of any person under 18 who is adjudicated guilty of shoplifting. This is done as an alternative to sanctions like probation or juvenile detention.
Dealing with shoplifting charges is far from a simple process, whether you have never been in a courtroom before or have an existing record already. The quality of your legal counsel will have a huge impact on how much these charges affect your life.
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