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Retail theft can encompass more than just shoplifting

retail theft.jpgWhen we hear the term retail theft, we automatically envision people attempting to leave a store with something for which they did not pay, perhaps concealing a single item under their coat or brazenly walking out with a full shopping cart.

While this is an accurate depiction, it fails to account for the various other forms that retail theft can take under Florida law. For example, the applicable statute not only expressly prohibits the "taking possession of or carrying away of merchandise, property ..." but also the alteration or removal of labels, universal product codes, or price tags. 

Furthermore, a separate law makes it a crime to use a fraudulently obtained or false receipt to secure refunds or merchandise.

As it turns out, these practices of price switching -- attaching a price tag with a higher value to a lower-priced item in an attempt to secure a larger refund -- and fraudulent receipts are becoming increasingly commonplace.

Consider that recent estimates from the Florida Retail Federation predict that of the roughly $260.5 billion in returns made in 2015 at least $9.1 billion could be classified as fraudulent.  

What this means, of course, is that storeowners across the state are now on heightened alert and will go to great lengths to protect their inventory. While there is certainly nothing inherently wrong with this, it's important that these efforts don't become too militant and result in otherwise innocent people being taken into custody.

Indeed, the consequences for a conviction on retail theft charges or for using a fraudulent receipt are nothing to take for granted. For example, both altering price tags on merchandise worth less than $100, and requesting a refund of money or merchandise using a false or stolen receipt are charged as second-degree misdemeanors punishable by fines of up to $500 and up to 60 days in jail.

In light of this reality, those who have been charged with any form of retail theft or other fraudulent conduct concerning the use of receipts should strongly consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible to learn more about their options for fighting the charges.

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