What to Know About Department Store Theft in Florida

Retail theft, commonly known as shoplifting, is a crime that can have serious consequences in the state of Florida. If you’re facing charges related to retail theft, it’s important to understand the defenses available to you. This article delves into how shoplifting is prosecuted, and the various retail theft defenses recognized in Florida.  


Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law in Tampa have extensive experience defending clients accused of shoplifting goods from retail stores as well as people accused of possessing those goods after the theft with intent to sell them. Florida law imposes harsh sanctions and life-changing penalties on defendants convicted of retail theft. If you or someone you know is charged with shoplifting or any theft-related crimes in Florida, contact us at Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law.  



Florida’s Criminal Shoplifting Statute


Florida’s criminal shoplifting statute, F.S. 812.015, provides for the prosecution and punishment of not only those who steal from retail stores, but also of anyone who conspires with them to conduct the activity, to receive the goods after the theft, as well as anyone who possesses specially designed equipment for use in disguising their shoplifting. This would include bags with hidden compartments, often called “booster bags.” 


The seriousness of an individual’s shoplifting charge in Florida depends on several factors, including the nature and value of the items taken, the number of shoplifting incidents the defendant has been involved in, and even the reasons behind the defendant’s behavior.  


The penalties that could be imposed under Florida law include the following:



  • For shoplifted items totaling a value under $749, up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000, or community service hours equal to the fine if paid at a rate of the minimum wage,



  • For shoplifted items totaling a value of $750 or more within a 30-day period, individually or in concert with others, up to 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine  
  • For conspiring with others to receive or sell shoplifted items, up to 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine, 
  • For working in concert by distracting merchant, merchant employee, or law enforcement so another can commit the theft of items valued at $750 or more, up to 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine, 
  • For individually or acting with others, committing 5 or more thefts within 30 days involving 10 or more items, regardless of value, and having committed thefts in 2 or more retail establishments, up to 5 years in prison, and a $5,000 fine. 


Legal Defenses to Shoplifting / Retail Theft Charges


To prove that a defendant is guilty of theft, the prosecution must prove every element of the offense by evidence and proof beyond a reasonable doubt. That task is not easy when a skilled and experienced criminal defense lawyer is defending a person accused in Hillsborough County or Pinellas County. 


The theft defense lawyers at Tampa’s Stechschulte Nell Law firm have successfully defended countless larceny cases using one or more of the following legal defenses: 


Lack of Intent 


One of the primary defenses against retail theft charges is establishing that you lacked the intent to commit the crime. Intent is a crucial element in proving guilt. If your lawyer can demonstrate that you did not have the intention to steal or that your actions were accidental, you could be acquitted or win dismissal of the shoplifting charge. 


Mistaken Identity 


In some cases, individuals might be wrongfully accused of retail theft due to mistaken identity. If you can provide evidence that you were not present at the scene of the alleged theft or that you were wrongly identified, this defense can help establish your innocence. 




If you believed you had the permission or consent of the store owner or an employee to take the merchandise in question, you might use this as a defense. Keep in mind that consent needs to be proven, and it’s not a defense if you misinterpreted the situation or misunderstood the permission granted.  

However, if you genuinely mistook or misinterpreted your permission to take the items, then your intent to steal the item would be difficult for the prosecution to prove. 


Duress or Coercion 


If you were forced or coerced into committing the theft under threat of harm or other negative consequences, you might have a duress defense. This defense is applicable when your actions were not voluntary but were a response to external pressures beyond your control.


While this is not a common or typical defense, some shoplifting cases driven by drug addiction could involve duress if the shoplifter’s will is overpowered by another person. The facts of every case are different and any fact with potential to help our client will be emphasized by the best defense lawyers. 


Insufficient Evidence 


A strong defense could be based on challenging the evidence presented against you. This may involve questioning the credibility of witnesses, the accuracy of surveillance footage, or the handling of the stolen items. A skilled theft defense attorney can help scrutinize the evidence and identify weaknesses in the case against you. 


Value Dispute 


In Florida, the severity of retail theft charges often depends on the value of the stolen merchandise. If you can successfully challenge the claimed value of the items, you might be able to reduce the charges or penalties associated with the offense. 


Diversion Programs 


In some cases, first-time offenders may be eligible for diversion programs, which offer an alternative to traditional legal proceedings. These programs often involve completing community service, attending anti-theft classes, or taking other rehabilitative actions in exchange for charges being dropped. 


Charged with Retail Theft in Florida? Expert Defense Insights You Need 


Facing retail theft charges in Florida can be a daunting experience, but understanding the available defenses can help you navigate the legal process. It’s essential to consult with experienced criminal defense attorneys like Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law in Tampa, who can evaluate the specifics of your case, advise you on the best course of action, and build a strong defense strategy tailored to your circumstances.  


Remember that the outcome of your case will depend on the quality of legal representation and the evidence presented in court. Call us at 813-280-1244.  

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