While it’s true that a shoplifting charge is often less consequential than other larceny offenses, it is still treated seriously. In fact, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, shoplifting is one of the largest categories of larceny charges in Florida, making up over 20% of cases per year. The penalties for shoplifting can be severe, and it’s in your best interest to hire a criminal defense attorney to help with your case.
If you’re facing shoplifting or other theft charges, call the skilled legal team at Ruhl & Lux, P.A in Port Charlotte, Florida. With over 15 years of experience, Ruhl & Lux, P.A attorneys can help those facing most criminal charges throughout the area, including Fort Myers and Sarasota.
Shoplifting (also called retail theft in Florida) can cover a broad range of offenses. Essentially, shoplifting means that someone has taken merchandise from a retailer without paying for it or without paying the full retail price for it. These charges can extend to removing or altering price tags or UPCs, removing security tags (and it’s worth noting that you can receive charges by attempting to remove one), hiding products on your person or in your belongings while you’re in a store, or taking products out of their original packaging and attempting to conceal them.
In Florida, shoplifting is usually categorized as either petit theft (called petty theft in other states) or grand theft, depending on the value of the stolen merchandise. A petit theft charge in the second degree is reserved for stolen merchandise valued at under $100. If the merchandise is valued between $100 and $750 or if you have a previous theft conviction, then the charges increase to petit theft in the first degree.
Grand theft charges in the third degree are reserved for merchandise valued at over $750 but less than $20,000. Grand theft charges can also increase to second and first degree, but these are designated for high-value merchandise (generally over $20,000) or for specific circumstances, such as theft during a riot. As with most criminal offenses, the charges and penalties increase if you have a record of prior convictions.
The possible penalties for shoplifting increase based on the value of the goods and on whether you have been convicted of a theft charge in the past. However, a judge has some discretion within the law for what consequences they’ll actually hand down. This, combined with a competent and experienced criminal defense attorney working for you, could mean that your penalties will not be as steep.
For petit theft charges, you could face 60 days to a year in jail, as well as fines up to $1,000. Grand theft charges bring stiffer sentences like jail time of up to 15 years and fines up to $10,000. Additionally, Florida law may also require that your driver’s license be suspended for six months to a year, even for a petit theft charge.
If you’re facing any criminal charge, you’ll want a skilled lawyer working in your corner, but this can be especially useful even for charges like shoplifting. A good attorney can educate you on your possible defenses and help you choose the best option based on your specific circumstances.
The first thing your legal team will do for you is try to poke holes in the prosecution’s argument. Remember, it’s up to the prosecution to prove without a doubt that you are guilty of shoplifting. This includes an intention to conceal and take merchandise from a retailer. If the prosecution cannot prove this intent, then your chances of a conviction are reduced. For example, it may be true that you concealed merchandise, but it could have been done accidentally. If you’re in a clothing store trying on items in a dressing room, you could genuinely forget to remove something and inadvertently leave the store with it still on. Or, you may put an item in your pocket to free up your hands to pick something up and forget that you put it there. Lastly, if the prosecution’s case relies on eye-witness testimony, your defense team will try to discredit the witness’s account of events.
In any case, your attorney will always try to reduce charges or get them thrown out altogether. Or, if the prosecution has a relatively strong case, they may try to negotiate a plea bargain on your behalf, which would still result in a conviction but could reduce your sentence or charges.
If you’re in the Port Charlotte, Florida, area and have recently been arrested on shoplifting charges, you need to act fast. It’s essential you understand and protect your rights and that you’re getting the best defense possible. At Ruhl & Lux, P.A, you’ll get experienced legal assistance from a team of lawyers who are committed to educating you about your options and giving you a chance to share your voice. Call today to set up a consultation.