Shoplifting may appear to be a minor crime; “How can a single stolen item hurt a business?” some might ask. However, shoplifting is a theft crime that’s punishable by law.
In Florida, shoplifting classifies as retail theft. And depending on specific circumstances, retail theft can be a misdemeanor or a felony. When does shoplifting become one or the other?
The value of the stolen item determines the penalty
The penalties for being charged with retail theft depend on the value of the items the individual allegedly stole. They are:
- Stolen merchandise worth $100 or less: The theft of small merchandise counts as petit theft in the second degree, a second-degree misdemeanor. The charge carries a maximum 60-day jail sentence and a $500 fine.
- Stolen merchandise worth over $100 but less than $750: Those who steal this much merchandise get a petit theft charge in the first degree, a first-degree misdemeanor that’s punishable up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
- Stolen merchandise worth $750 or more: A third-degree felony with a maximum penalty of five years and a $5,000.
However, the actual penalties can also depend on the circumstances of the case. Perhaps the individual accidentally took the item with them when they exited the store or forgot to scan a purchase in a self-checkout line. These reasons, however, have to be communicated in court.
Defending your case
Those charged with shoplifting should consider approaching a lawyer for legal aid. Shoplifting charges can be highly challenging to appeal, especially when stores have video surveillance, witness testimonies and other circumstantial evidence that prosecutors can use against the accused. A lawyer experienced in shoplifting cases can ensure that the convicted individual’s rights are protected while challenging the charges.