Palm Beach Property Crimes Defense
In Florida, shoplifting is a serious crime that can have severe consequences, including heavy fines and even jail time. Shoplifting occurs when someone takes possession of a merchant’s property with the intent to deprive him or her of the retail value of the item. If you have been charged with shoplifting in Florida, it is vital that you contact an experienced lawyer to make sure your rights are protected and you receive the best defense possible.
Elements of Shoplifting
Often referred to as retail theft, the offense of shoplifting can be committed in numerous ways. The offender must have the intent to deprive the merchant of possession, use, benefit, or full retail value of the item and also must:
- Take possession of or carry away merchandise, property, money, or negotiable documents;
- Alter or remove a label, universal product code, or price tag;
- Transfer merchandise from one container to another; or
- Remove a shopping cart.
Merchandise is defined as personal property that is:
- Capable of manual delivery;
- Held; or
- Offered for retail sale by a merchant.
A merchant is the owner or operator of any premises or apparatus used for retail purchase or sale of any merchandise. A merchant can also be an owner or operator’s:
- Lessee; or
The value of merchandise is the sale price of the merchandise at the time of the theft that deprived the owner of his or her legal right to ownership and sale of the object.
A particular instance of shoplifting does not reach the level of grand theft if the value of the merchandise taken is less than $300. If the aggregate value of the items stolen is less than $300 but more than $100, then the crime becomes one of petit theft, which is a first-degree misdemeanor and carries the lighter punishment of a $1,000 fine and up to one year in jail. When the value is less than $100, shoplifting is a second-degree petit theft charge, punishable by 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.
In some circumstances, a person who commits retail theft can be charged with a felony. Shoplifting is a felony offense when the items allegedly shoplifted are valued at $300 or more, and the accused either:
- Coordinated the activities of one or more individuals committing the offense;
- Committed retail theft from more than one location in a 48-hour time period;
- Worked with one or more individuals in the store to distract personnel in order to commit the theft; or
- Purposely purchased the merchandise in the wrong box or added additional merchandise to a box with the appropriate merchandise already in it.
If all of these factors are met and the property is valued at under $20,000, the charge for retail theft becomes a third-degree felony. Third degree felonies are punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. If the value is over $20,000, the offender will be charged with a second or first-degree felony.
There are several defenses available to those accused of shoplifting, including:
- Mistaken identity;
- Illegal search;
- Discrepancies in value; and
- Lack of intent.
If you have been charged with shoplifting, an attorney can help you review your options, including possible defenses. Please contact West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney William Wallshein for a free consultation.