From shoplifting at Walmart to taking tools or a generator from a worksite, the penalties for theft in Florida are much more than a slap on the wrist. The fines and fees are significant. Jail time is even possible.
As background checks are required on everything from a job to housing application, a one-time mistake can even have long term consequences.
In this post, we explain the criminal penalties and why it is crucial that you bring on a defense attorney as soon as possible to help you fight the theft charges.
Shoplifting in Florida
Walmart has recently been fighting back after earning a reputation as an easy target. In one case that shows the shift, several employees tackled a suspected shoplifter. Their excessive force resulted in charges of manslaughter against the three employees.
Ask any Walmart employee, and they will tell you lively stories about consumers attempting to steal from their local stores. One Floridian was charged with grand theft after trying to walk out of a Walmart with merchandise that included clothing, fishing gear, brake fluid and a 50-inch television.
Criminal theft penalties
The criminal penalties for shoplifting in Florida are anything but lax. Florida law classifies shoplifting charges into two categories:
- Petit or Petty Theft: Second-degree petit theft charges are filed when the value of the merchandise is under $100. If the value is between $100 and $300, second-degree petit theft charges are filed. Fines can go up to $1,000 and carry a jail sentence of up to one year.
- Grand Theft: These charges are filed in cases that involve the theft of merchandise valued at $300 or more. There are third, second and first-degree charges, and fines can go up to $10,000 with prison sentences of up to 30 years. Most cases involve merchandise totaling less than $20,000, so third-degree charges are filed with a prison sentence of up to five years possible.
Those charged with certain other theft crimes in Florida may be able to enter a diversionary program that minimizes the consequences. Sometimes these programs have the added benefit of keeping the matter off of your criminal record. In some cases, the judge might assign public service instead of fines or jail time. Attorney James M. Burns can protect your rights throughout the process, present the best defense and minimize the potential consequences.
Retailers may also file civil cases on top of criminal punishments. Even if the theft involved less than $100, a retailer may send a letter demanding thousands of dollars. No matter how threatening the language in a letter, get legal advice to learn your options before sending a response or payment.
If you pleaded guilty or no contest to a theft charge in the past, do not let the mistake ruin your future. Find out what you need to do to clean up your criminal record before beginning a serious job search or looking for a new apartment.