Shoplifting is the theft of merchandise from a store or place of business or the taking or concealment of items being offered for sale. Shoplifting is also a type of larceny. Larceny is taking the property of someone else without their permission, and with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property taken. Florida laws may refer to the crime by a different name, “retail theft”.
In Florida, shoplifting offenses include two elements:
1. willfully concealing or taking possession of items being offered for sale
2. the intent to deprive the items’ rightful owner (typically the store) of possession of the items, without paying the purchase price.
In the state of Florida, one can break shoplifting laws without attempting to get out of a store with stolen goods with only the intent to take the item from the store. However, the state of Florida considers the act of concealing merchandise to be evidence of intent to commit the crime.
Shoplifting laws also make it illegal to take actions to avoid paying the full purchase price for an item in addition to hiding an item to avoid paying for it. This can include manipulating merchandise, altering price tags and putting goods into packaging to avoid paying all or part of the purchase price.
In Florida, the range of shoplifting charges runs from a low level misdemeanor, up to differing degrees of felony charges. The severity of shoplifting charges depends on the value of the goods involved or if firearms, explosives or incendiary devices are shoplifted, the severity of charges increases in Florida. Prior criminal convictions, specifically prior theft convictions, as priors may result in stricter charges.
Misdemeanor charges may result in jail time (less than one year), probation and/or a fine. Felonies may result in a longer jail sentence, probation and/or a larger fine.
Private citizens may not legally hold people against their will. The state of Florida has enacted statutes specifically authorizing stores and their employees to detain suspected shoplifters in certain circumstances. Store owners and their employees generally are allowed to detain an individual in a reasonable manner, when they have probable cause to suspect shoplifting. However, any such detention of a suspected shoplifter must be reasonable in length and manner. Detentions without probable cause may leave the store open to liability for false imprisonment and possibly other claims.
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