Being at a mall in Orlando, Florida with friends is an enjoyable occurrence for many. But there may be a time when upon a dare or to impress your friends, or just because you are feeling depressed, you see an opportunity to take an article of clothing or some other item from a mall store without paying for it.
Unfortunately, most mall stores have cameras or employ undercover security for just such circumstances and you find yourself being detained for shoplifting. Although the item you took may have little value outside the store, you can still be charged with a shoplifting or petit theft offense, also called retail theft.
Examples of Retail Theft
There are a number of examples of theft that include more than just stealing an item without paying for it. These include the following:
- Changing the label or price tag.
- Removing an item from a container and placing it in another that indicates a lesser value.
- Removing a shopping cart.
If you attempt to or do take an item from a merchant with the intent to deprive the merchant of its retail value or use, then you have committed a theft. A security guard or representative of the store is allowed to detain you in a reasonable manner and for a reasonable time only to obtain the item back from you or to alert police.
Penalties for Shoplifting
The penalties for shoplifting depend on the value of the item stolen as well as your past criminal record.
- For items valued at under $100, you face a second degree misdemeanor petit theft, which carries up to 60-days in jail, 6 months’ probation and a $500 fine.
- For items valued from $100 to $299, you face a first degree misdemeanor petit theft charge carrying up to one year in jail, one year of probation and a $1000 fine.
- If you took something valued at $300 to $19,999, or you stole a firearm, you face a third degree felony or grand theft charge. This crime is punishable by up to 5 years in prison, 5 years’ probation and a fine up to $5000.
It is unlikely that you could steal property worth more than $20,000 from a mall store, but any stolen property worth at least this much subjects you to more severe felony charges.
You also face possible civil penalties or a lawsuit from the retail store along with losing your driving privileges for a time. If the property is not returned to the store, you may also have to pay back the store for the property.
Steps to Take
Should you be stopped and detained for shoplifting, there are some steps you can take to preserve your rights and to have the best opportunity for a favorable resolution of your case:
- Do not admit to anything.
- Ask if you are under arrest and say you will only talk to an attorney.
- Do not sign anything even if a store representative or security guard assures you that you will be immediately released or not charged.
- If you are allowed a phone call, do not discuss the facts of the case on the phone.
- Should you be turned over to police, repeat the above.
- Once released, immediately contact a criminal defense attorney.
Many times there is a misunderstanding about the alleged shoplifting incident or the witness statements are not credible. The market value of the item allegedly taken may also be in doubt.
Florida also allows in some cases for defendants to enter and complete a diversion program including restitution and/or community service in return for dropping or dismissing the charges.
You need a skilled and experienced criminal defense lawyer to help you when you have been charged with theft or shoplifting. Don’t trust your future or possible freedom to any attorney. Contact The Wiseman Law Firm of Orlando, Florida for a free consultation today.