Facing shoplifting allegations can be an incredibly stressful experience. The potential penalties for theft are serious. Even if you have been wrongly accused or made a genuine mistake, the consequences of a conviction could include jail time and hefty fines.
Here are some effective strategies attorneys use when helping their clients fight accusations.
The Elements of Shoplifting Charges in Florida
Generally, shoplifting is defined as intentionally taking merchandise from a store without paying for it. To be charged with shoplifting in Florida, the prosecution must prove several key elements, including:
- The intent to steal
- The act of concealing or taking the merchandise
- Leaving the store without paying
Even if the merchandise is returned or the theft is unsuccessful, the state can still press charges.
Shoplifting Penalties in Florida
Depending on the value of the stolen merchandise, shoplifting can be a misdemeanor or a felony.
For amounts under $750, the offense is considered a first-degree misdemeanor and can result in up to one year in jail and a fine of $1,000.
If the value of the stolen items exceeds $750, the crime is considered a felony and can lead to a prison sentence of up to five years and a fine of $5,000.
Alleged shoplifters may also face civil charges from the store owner, including restitution for the stolen goods and reimbursement for any damages the theft incurred.
Mistaken Identity Defense
You may be able to prove that you were not actually in the store at the time of the alleged incident. Perhaps there is also evidence that another person committed the crime. Surveillance footage, for instance, could be debunked, or it could prove that you were not the perpetrator.
Lack of Intent Defense
Shoplifting requires an intent to steal. You may be able to prove that you did not mean to take the item. For example, you may have absentmindedly walked out of a store with an item, forgetting to pay for it.
This defense argues that you were forced or threatened to commit the crime by someone else. This can be difficult to prove. It requires evidence of the force or threat. Without a solid case, you are simply making a claim that could become a “he said, she said” argument.
Entrapment is not the same as an undercover operation. Police are allowed to lie to secure an arrest. To entrap someone, police must convince them to commit a crime they otherwise wouldn’t.
If a store employee or security officer coerced you into shoplifting, this is an example of entrapment and could serve as a defense.
Using an entrapment defense against shoplifting allegations can be a tricky process. This argument claims that you were persuaded to commit the crime. It may seem like a straightforward argument, but police and security are trained to avoid crossing the line entrapment line. Even if they are guilty of entrapment, they know enough of the law and its terminology to make themselves appear innocent.
It takes a good attorney to prove entrapment. If you’ve been coerced into committing any crime, Law Offices of Jason K.S. Porter, P.A. may be able to help.
Our firm can help defend you against shoplifting charges. If you’ve been accused, contact us online today or call us to set up a free consultation.