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Shoplifting / Retail Theft

Shoplifting is a general term to describe a crime that involves depriving a merchant of his or her property. As with the case of any theft related crime, the severity of the charges will depend upon the value taken and can be catoragized as either misdemeanors or felonies.

There is no specific charge in Florida for Shoplifting but “retail theft” is codified under F.S. 812.015 and generally means the following:

  • Taking possession or carrying away the property of a merchant
  • Altering or removing a label, product code, or price tag
  • Transferring merchandise from one container to another

Prosecutors often charge the crime of Retail Theft under F.S. 812.014 – Petit Theft, a misdemeanor (property value under $300) which involves the intentional depriving of property of anther or F.S 812.014 – Grand Theft, a felony (property valued at $300 or over) which involves the intentional depriving of property of another.

A typical shoplifting case unfolds when a lost prevention officer employed by store and working in a security capacity believes that a shopper has committed retail theft. The loss prevention officer will detain the individual to retrieve the suspected stolen items and commence prosecution.

However, because of the high rate of incident with this particular crime, the backlash is that many innocent individuals are caught up in this wide spread net to combat this offense. This leads to false accusations and embarrassment for many innocent customers because of a misunderstanding where there was no “criminal intent” to deprive the merchant of their property.

The Merchant can lawfully detain an individual for a time that is reasonable to accomplish these two goals. This process is often very embarrassing and even humiliating for individuals as they are often taken into back rooms and questioned by employees of the store with little to no experience or training. In many cases a minimally trained employee of the Merchant is conducting a criminal investigation without observing basic civility and personal rights.

A person convicted of a “Shoplifting” is likely to suffer social and economic losses including:

  • Criminal history for a “crime of dishonesty”
  • Loss of current employment and future opportunities
  • Loss of academic scholarships
  • Potential denial for applications for U.S. Green Cards and U. S. Citizenship
  • Loss of the ability to lease an apartment
  • Loss or Driver’s License

Defenses to Shoplifting

Florida’s Petit Theft Statute requires that the prosecution prove that a defendant had the “specific criminal intent” to deprive another of their property.

With this in mind there are a myriad of effective defense strategies an experienced Broward Shoplifting Lawyer will employ with the goal of having the case dismissed or the charges reduced to a lesser offense. An experienced criminal defense attorney will seek out any pretrial motions including motions to suppress evidence due to unlawful search and seizure and will look to see if any of the following can be raised as effective defenses:

  • Customers mistakenly leaving the store distracted with merchandise
  • Customer forgetting about items places in the cart (Cases of Bottled Water in Cart)
  • Exiting the store for purposes other than to steal as to retrieve a wallet or purse
  • Only a momentary and brief deprivation of property
  • Being set up by a co-defendant
  • Poor video quality resulting in a factual dispute

A Shoplifting conviction can have far reaching ramifications both in the present and the future. It is imperative to reach out to an experienced Fort Lauderdale Shoplifting Lawyer to enhance the possibility of the most favorable result. Broward Shoplifting Attorney, Dave Simmons, will employ an experienced skill set in an effort to have the case dismissed or the charges reduced to a lesser offense.

Pre-Trial Diversion Programs

The Broward State Attorney’s Office offers two type of programs for first time offenders. The Misdemeanor Diversion or (MDP) is available to first time offenders for misdemeanors including the charge of Petit Theft. The Felony Pre-Trial Diversion Program is available for many felony offenses including Grand Theft.

By resolving a case through this type of program, the case is “diverted” away from traditional trial setting. The programs generally consist of community service hours over a specified period of time, program fees, educational classes and once completed the charges are dismissed by the State and can later be expunged if otherwise eligible. This may prove to be a viable option if the evidence in the case is substantial.

If you have been charged with Shoplifting in Broward County or throughout South Florida, contact the Fort Lauderdale Shoplifting Attorney’s at the Law Offices of Dave L. Simmons, P.A. at (954) 765-3540.

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