Although shoplifting may seem like a minor offense, a conviction can have serious consequences in Florida. If you have been arrested for retail theft, you can defend against the allegations with the assistance of a Jacksonville theft crimes lawyer. At Ellis and Bryant, we represent individuals in shoplifting cases and many other criminal matters. We have the experience to find weaknesses in the prosecution’s case and the skill to fight a shoplifting charge on your behalf.Florida Shoplifting Offenses
Theft is committed when a person intentionally deprives someone else of their property, either permanently or temporarily. Florida and federal laws cover many types of theft crimes, from embezzlement to burglary. In Florida, retail theft is the criminal offense charged for shoplifting. A person commits retail theft when they take possession of, or carry away merchandise, property, money, or negotiable documents with the intent to deprive the store of the possession, benefit, use, or full retail value of the item. Retail theft also includes acts such as changing or cutting off a label, barcode, or price tag, or switching merchandise from one container to another.Penalties
The penalties for shoplifting are largely based on the value of the merchandise alleged to have been stolen. Petit theft covers shoplifted merchandise with a value of less than $300 and is typically charged as either a first or second degree misdemeanor offense. For items valued between $100 and $300, shoplifting is a first degree misdemeanor charge in most cases, while items worth less than $100 will result in a second degree misdemeanor charge. A prior theft conviction or other aggravating factors may elevate a shoplifting charge from a second degree misdemeanor to a first degree misdemeanor offense. A conviction may be punishable by a jail sentence, probation, community service, a civil penalty, and/or a fine. In addition, the court may order a drivers license suspension period of up to six months for a first-time offense, and a one year suspension for a second conviction.
There are circumstances that may elevate a shoplifting charge from a misdemeanor offense to a felony. An individual who has been convicted of two or more theft crimes may be charged with a felony in the third degree for a subsequent arrest for shoplifting. An offense involving high-priced merchandise may also result in a felony charge. Grand theft is a third degree felony for stolen property valued between $300 and $5,000. If you are accused of shoplifting expensive items, therefore, you could be facing a felony charge for grand theft. Not only are the penalties harsh for a conviction, but a felony record can hurt your employment opportunities, rental housing options, and other civil benefits.Defending Against a Retail Theft Charge
A shoplifting charge may be reduced or possibly dismissed if there is a valid defense to the allegations. For example, theft crimes require criminal intent. If you simply forgot to pay for an item before you walked out of the store with it, or if you believed that you had paid for the merchandise, you did not intend to commit retail theft. Other defenses may be that you were misidentified, falsely accused, or there is simply not enough evidence to prove the charge beyond a reasonable doubt. Whether a specific defense applies will depend on the facts and circumstances of each shoplifting case. To find out more about these and other defense strategies that may be available to you, discuss the details your case with a qualified criminal attorney.Contact a Theft Crimes Lawyer for a Jacksonville Shoplifting Charge
At Ellis and Bryant, we are committed to providing high-quality defense representation in shoplifting and theft cases in and around Jacksonville. Our theft crime attorneys can work aggressively to protect your rights and pursue a positive case outcome after an arrest. We handle criminal matters for clients throughout Duval and Clay Counties, including in Jacksonville Beach, Middleburg, Orange Park, and other areas. Arrange a free consultation by calling (904) 551-4120 or contacting Ellis and Bryant online.