Shoplifting is one of the most common crimes in Florida, especially in Palm Beach and Broward counties. The motivation behind shoplifting can range from adolescent rebellion, organized retail theft, desperation, or even mental illnesses like kleptomania. Shockingly, an estimated $68 billion in stolen merchandise was sold online to unsuspecting consumers in 2021, according to law enforcement and retail crime investigators. If you are facing criminal charges for shoplifting, it is imperative to have an experienced West Palm Beach shoplifting defense attorney by your side to represent you or a loved one that may be facing charges.
Under Florida law, shoplifting or retail theft crimes are charged as either petit or grand theft and the penalties depend on the circumstances of the incident as well as the value of the item(s) stolen. No matter the theft charges you or a loved one may be facing in Florida, shoplifting is still a serious offense that carries even heavier consequences.
What is the Penalty for Shoplifting in Florida?
Last year, an epidemic of shoplifting caused chain stores like Rite Aid to close hard-hit stores or lock up aisles of commonly thefted items like deodorant and toothpaste according to the New York Post.
In Florida, shoplifting or retail theft charges depend on the value of the items that were stolen. If the total value of the shoplifted items amounts to $749 or less, you will likely be charged with misdemeanor petty theft. A misdemeanor petty theft charge can be punished with a maximum of six months in jail and fines up to $1,000.
If the total value of the shoplifted items amounts to $750 or greater, you can be charged with grand theft. Grand theft charges can be either a misdemeanor or a felony at the discretion of the prosecutor. The prison sentence for grand theft can also last one year or longer depending on the degree of the charge. For example, to be charged with grand theft of the third-degree in Florida, the property stolen must be one or more of the following:
- Worth less than $20,000, but greater than $750
- A controlled substance
- A firearm
- A motor vehicle
- A will, codicil, or another testamentary instrument; or
- Anything of value stolen by a hotel or restaurant employee in the course of their employment
A third-degree grand theft charge in Florida can also lead to a maximum of five years in prison, five years of probation, or fines up to $5,000.
Defenses for Florida Shoplifting Charges
An experienced Florida shoplifting defense attorney may be able to assist in challenging intent. In order to commit an offense such as shoplifting or retail theft, you must do so intentionally. If you mistakenly forgot to pay for an item, you should not be convicted of a crime. Some of these defenses can include:
- Advanced age
- Mental disorder(s)
- Mistaken identity
- Insufficient evidence
An experienced criminal defense attorney can also challenge the claimed value of the stolen items and potentially have the charges reduced or request alternative sentencing.
Can Shoplifting Charges Be Expunged?
Shoplifting or retail charges may be able to be sealed or expunged in Florida as long as you or a loved one meet the statutory criteria for sealing and expungement. To be eligible:
- You can't have been convicted (adjudicated guilty) for the case you wish to seal or expunge or any other criminal case ever. A withhold of adjudication on a theft case is something that CAN be sealed.
- You can't be presently under court supervision (probation, house arrest, etc.).
- You can't ever have had a criminal record sealed or expunged anywhere before.
If you have already completed a pretrial diversion program offered by the state of Florida, and the charges were dropped, you will likely be eligible to have your case sealed and expunged. Our office can assist in confirming your eligibility.
Shoplifting Defense Attorney in West Palm Beach, FL
Regardless if you were a victim of mistaken identity, forgot to put an item back, or were caught shoplifting, The Law Offices of Matthew Konecky can help build a defense strategy for your theft case. If you have been charged with petit theft or grand theft in Palm Beach County, contact us or call us at (561) 671-5995 to speak with an attorney promptly as you or your loved ones' freedom may be at stake.