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What Happens if I Get Caught Shoplifting in Florida?

What Happens if I Get Caught Shoplifting in Florida?

Shoplifting is a common issue that many people face in Florida. While it may seem minor, being caught shoplifting can have serious legal consequences. This article will provide an overview of Florida’s shoplifting laws, penalties you may face, and what to do if you are caught shoplifting.

How Shoplifting is Defined in Florida

In Florida, shoplifting falls under the crime of retail theft, which is covered by Florida Statute 812.015. Under this law, shoplifting includes:

  • Taking merchandise, money, or property from a store without paying
  • Altering, removing, or switching price tags or labels
  • Transferring products from one container to another
  • Removing shopping carts from store premises with intent to deprive the owner

Simply concealing an item is not enough to be charged with shoplifting in Florida. You must pass the last point of sale with the intent to deprive the owner of the item.

Penalties for Shoplifting in Florida

The penalties you face for shoplifting in Florida depend on a few factors:

  • Value of items stolen – This is the primary factor. More expensive items lead to more serious charges.
  • Prior criminal record – Repeat offenders face harsher penalties.
  • Use of tools – Using tools like wire cutters or devices to remove security tags escalates charges.

Here are the common penalties based on value:

  • Under $100 – Second degree misdemeanor, up to 60 days in jail and $500 fine
  • $100 to $300 – First degree misdemeanor, up to 1 year in jail and $1,000 fine
  • $300 to $20,000 – Third degree felony, up to 5 years in prison and $5,000 fine
  • Over $20,000 – Second degree felony, up to 15 years in prison and $10,000 fine

Second and third shoplifting offenses are typically charged as third degree felonies regardless of value.

What Happens When You Are Caught Shoplifting

If you are caught shoplifting in Florida, here is the typical process:

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  1. Detention – Store security will detain you and contact the local police. They can use reasonable force to detain you until police arrive.
  2. Arrest – Police will arrest you and transport you to the local jail. Your personal belongings will be confiscated.
  3. Booking & Processing – You will be fingerprinted, photographed, and formally charged. Bail may be set at this point.
  4. Pre-Trial Detention – If bail is not posted, you will be transported to county jail to await your court date. This can take weeks or months.
  5. Court Date – Your first appearance will involve entering a plea and setting dates for further proceedings.
  6. Adjudication – Your guilt will be determined at trial or by plea deal. Shoplifting trials are typically short.
  7. Sentencing – If found guilty, the judge will impose penalties like fines, probation, or jail time.

Common Legal Defenses for Shoplifting

While being caught shoplifting seems hopeless, there are defenses your criminal defense attorney can use to fight the charges:

  • Lack of intent – Argue you did not intend to deprive the owner of the merchandise. For example, you simply forgot an item was in your cart.
  • Wrongful detention – Challenge the legality of how store security detained you. Any force used must be reasonable.
  • Misidentification – Claim it was a case of mistaken identity and you were not the shoplifter.
  • Entrapment – Allege you were induced or coerced into shoplifting by store employees.
  • Intoxication – Being extremely intoxicated can negate the intent required for shoplifting.
  • Necessity – Argue your actions were necessary to prevent a greater harm.
  • False confession – If you confessed, claim it was done under duress or coercion from police.

What to Do If You Are Caught Shoplifting

If detained for shoplifting in Florida, here are some tips:

  • Remain silent – Do not admit guilt or make any statements to store security or police.
  • Ask for an attorney – Clearly invoke your right to have an attorney present for questioning.
  • Don’t resist – Follow instructions from security and police to avoid additional charges.
  • Arrange for bail – Have a family member or friend ready to post bail when it is set.
  • Hire a criminal defense attorney – An experienced lawyer can negotiate with prosecutors or defend you at trial.
  • Seek diversion programs – These programs allow charges to be dropped after completing rehabilitation and community service.
  • Get character references – Have friends, employers, etc. write letters attesting to your good character to help at sentencing.

Consequences of a Shoplifting Conviction

Being convicted of shoplifting in Florida can negatively impact your life for years to come:

  • Criminal record – Shoplifting convictions stay on your record permanently, unless expunged.
  • Probation & fines – Shoplifting sentences often involve probation and hefty fines.
  • Jail time – Even first offenses can lead to months in county jail.
  • Employment issues – Many employers conduct background checks and do not hire those with theft convictions.
  • Professional licensing – Shoplifting convictions can prevent you from getting licensed for many occupations.
  • Immigration issues – Non-citizens charged with shoplifting may face deportation.
  • Travel limitations – Some countries deny entry to those with criminal records.
  • Custody issues – Convictions can impact child custody and visitation rights.
  • Public embarrassment – Shoplifting arrests and mugshots are often published by police and media outlets.


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