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Tampa Criminal Lawyer > Blog > Criminal > Charged With Shoplifting or Petit Theft? You Have Options

Charged With Shoplifting or Petit Theft? You Have Options


In a hypothetical story, Susan is standing in line to checkout at a local department store with her toddler. She completes her purchase with the cashier, bags her items and pushes the cart out the front doors, only for the security alarm to trigger. Unbeknownst to her, her toddler has shoved several items (candy, toys, and batteries) into one of the shopping bags. Susan is flustered, embarrassed and confused. She explains that she did not intend to steal the items and it was just an accident, her toddler probably put things in the bag by mistake. Despite her explanation, she and her daughter are whisked away to a back storage room by the manager until police arrive. Has Susan committed a crime? What happens to defendants charged with shoplifting?

“Petit” Theft Defined & Potential Penalties 

Petit theft is defined as any taking or theft of goods worth a value of less than three hundred dollars. It is classified as a misdemeanor. If a defendant is convicted, they can serve jail time in addition to fines and possibly a community service assignment. In order to convict a defendant of petit theft, the prosecution must establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant had the malicious intent to commit the crime and deprive the owner of the goods of the property in question. Florida statute defines shoplifting as retail theft. Retail theft is the taking or carrying away of retail merchandise, property or money, or removing a tag device, UPC barcode or price tag, or removing items from a shopping cart without tendering money for the item in exchange. Penalties for retail theft range from jail time to fines and community service. If a person is found in possession of an anti-shoplifting device countermeasure or a device meant to defeat anti-shoplifting mechanisms in a retail store, they can be charged with a third degree felony and if convicted, face a prison term of up to five years. 

Defenses to Theft or Shoplifting 

One common defense to theft or shoplifting is mistake. In the hypothetical used above, Susan lacks the intent to commit the crime. She did not place the items in her cart, her 2 year old did. Her toddler is not old enough to formulate intent to commit a crime, and Susan did not intentionally walk out with items in an attempt to steal or shoplift, so in her case, the charges would likely be dropped. Another defense to shoplifting is simply forgetting to place the item on the checkout counter. This often happens with large items placed under a grocery cart like a case of water or package of paper towels. The customer means to pay for the items but forgets to scan it all, and perhaps the cashier overlooked it. In that case the customer can easily rectify the situation by paying the balance owed to customer service, but it is not unheard of for a store to press charges against that customer for shoplifting. In either case, the defendant needs an experienced criminal defense attorney to mount a successful defense. 

Contact Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney Bryant Scriven 

If you or a loved one have been charged with theft or shoplifting, you might be confused or scared. This may be your first encounter with the law and the consequences are real. Even in cases where no intent is present, if the defendant does not plead as such or contest the charges, they can be convicted and serve time in jail. Their arrest record may also affect their current job, future employment opportunities, and reputation. Tampa criminal attorney Bryant Scriven is a respected and experienced criminal defense attorney who has helped thousands of clients in similar dilemmas beat or reduce charges, and he can help you too. Don’t let one mistake dictate the rest of your future. Call today to schedule a consultation.



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