The hectic nature of a busy store creates confusion, if not outright forgetfulness. Shopping with children can become chaotic during holiday seasons and when school is about to start. Paying for your items seems routine until you are confronted by store security.
An item hidden in a corner or lower part of a shopping cart has led to you being detained and arrested for shoplifting. Stores are aggressive in recruitment of equally aggressive security officers. Their goal is to discourage crimes, resulting in those supposedly caught for "shoplifting" becoming examples to others.
Serious Consequences On A Shoplifting Conviction
If you've been charged with shoplifting, you know it's a serious crime of dishonesty. You've got to make sure it's handled the correct way because it can affect you for the rest of your life in terms of school, employment, scholarships and many other factors.
If you're a student, you want to make sure you consult with an attorney before making any decisions. Shoplifting charge does not necessarily have to be a petty theft like many people may perceive. You might even be charged with something more serious, like a grand theft.
There are different levels of shoplifting:
- If you're accused of taking an item or items less than $100, then you're usually accused of second-degree misdemeanor petty theft, which carries a maximum penalty of up to 60 days in jail, a $500 fine or up to six months probation.
- If you're accused of stealing $100 to $300 worth of merchandise, then you're charged with petty theft of a first-degree misdemeanor type. This charge carries a maximum penalty of up to one year in jail, a $1,000 dollar fine or up to one year of probation.
- If you're accused of taking more than $300 dollars worth of merchandise, then it's considered a grand theft charge. This is a felony, and if you're accused, you could potentially face up to five years in prison, a $5,000 dollar fine or five years probation.
- If you're accused of committing a theft with another person, a co-defendant, the prosecutor's office will usually add the amount together. So, if the amount you're accused of taking is maybe only $50, but your co-defendant is accused of taking $300, unfortunately, you could be charged with the felony grand theft. This is because they add the amounts together and charge you with the same crime if you're acted in concert or together.
Civil Penalties For Shoplifting
When you're charged with shoplifting, the store or merchant will give you a letter in person of the time of the alleged offense, or he or she will mail you a letter stating that you need to pay what's called the civil penalty.
The store will sometimes use a collection company, or a law firm on its behalf, to send you this letter. The amount it wants to collect is different, depending on how much it is alleged that you took: it could be as low as $200, or as high as over $1,000. The law allows a merchant to try to collect the civil penalty if you're charged with theft; however, you should be aware that if you choose to pay this civil penalty, it does not stop the prosecutor's office of the state of Florida from prosecuting you for a criminal charge. These are two separate things.
However, before you make a decision to pay the civil penalty, you should consult with an attorney. Payment of a civil penalty could constitute an admission of guilt, even if you feel like you're not guilty, and you haven't done anything wrong. The payment of that civil penalty may also be used against you in the criminal court. However, if your attorney and you discuss that you want to enter into a plea agreement, or you want to get into a diversion program, obviously payment of that civil penalty could be in your best interest.
If you've never been in trouble before and you've been charged with shoplifting, your attorney maybe able to get you what's called a diversion program. A diversion program diverts you from the court system. Your attorney will enter a plea of not guilty for you, and you will sign an agreement with the prosecutor's office stating that you will complete certain conditions, such as maybe taking a theft class, doing some community service hours or paying money to be in the program.
Once you complete those types of conditions, then the charges will be dropped against you. If you've been charged with shoplifting, you want to see if you're eligible for that program. Once the charges are dropped, then you can discuss with your attorney whether or not you're eligible for an expungement.
Defending Shoplifting Charges
At The Umansky Law Firm, our theft defense attorneys provide aggressive representation for our clients charged with shoplifting. We also assert their rights, starting with their right to remain silent before a mall security guard or police officer. As in any theft-related case, we strive to minimize the consequences. First-offender programs offer the chance for charges to be dismissed in pretrial diversion. Completing those conditions can result in the charges being dropped and your record expunged with the help of a shoplifting attorney. However, a trial before a jury remains an option if that can provide the best outcome.
We are former prosecutors protecting the rights of the wrongfully accused. Our experienced lawyers are standing by to help you go over your shoplifting case. To schedule a free initial consultation with an Orlando shoplifting lawyer at The Umansky Law Firm, contact our office online or call 407-228-3838.
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