The term shoplifting means to steal merchandise from a retail establishment by hiding the items and walking out of the store or attempting to walk out of the store. The crime of Petit Theft deals with the unlawful taking of property worth less than $300 and many shoplifting offenses often are charged as petit theft.
Petit Theft is one of the most commonly prosecuted theft crimes in Florida and can be charged as Petit Theft under $100, which is deemed a second degree misdemeanor, or Petit Theft of items valued between $100-$300, which is deemed a first degree misdemeanor.
To prove the crime of Petit Theft, the State must prove that you took property from another person with the intent to:
In other words, the State must be able to prove that you intended to take something that did not belong to you from a store, without paying for it, and that you did in fact take the item, or attempted to remove the item, from the store. This can include the concealment of merchandise as well as returning stolen merchandise or switching item labels.
There are various means a prosecutor can use to provide evidence of shoplifting or retail theft. Surveillance video from store cameras, statements and admissions made by the individual being accused, testimony from employees at the store, and testimony of other customers in the store can all be utilized to bolster the State's claim against you in a Petit Theft case.
The penalties for the crime of Petit Theft depend on the value of the items taken.
If the property is not recovered, restitution for the item or items taken may also be included as part of your sentence.
Additionally, Florida law now allows a court to suspend a person's driver's license for a period of up to six months when that person is adjudicated guilty of misdemeanor petit theft. A suspension for a period of one year can be imposed when a person is found guilty of a second offense.
Additionally, petit theft is considered a "crime of dishonesty" in Florida and this could have a serious impact on your reputation and character, employment opportunities, and professional standing. A conviction for any crime of dishonesty can be used against you though out the job application process, during a background check, or if you ever testify in a court of law. Anyone found guilty of theft, including petit theft, is required by Florida law to have their fingerprints taken in court which then become public record.
Each case is different and an attorney can often raise defenses on your behalf to contest a petit theft charge. Examples of defenses include but are not limited to: forgetting about an item placed in a bag, mistaken identity, poor quality surveillance video, valueless property, or voluntary abandonment of the property. A theft charge is a severe matter and not every case will have a solid defense. Luckily, many counties in Florida offer "diversion" programs for a first arrest. These programs are managed by the State Attorney's Office to try and keep certain cases out of court.
Upon agreeing to enter a diversion program, you must complete certain conditions including performing community service, paying court costs, and participating in a shoplifting prevention class. If the alleged victim in the case, or the store where the merchandise was stolen, is against your case being moved out of a disposition in court, or if you have anything on your record that would disqualify you from the program such as a conviction or a previous diversion program, you may not be eligible for the program.
Whether you were arrested for petit theft or any other misdemeanor or felony charge, contact an attorney at Taracks & Associates to discuss your options and how we can help drop or reduce your charges.