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How does Florida law view shoplifting?

While kids of all ages -- from elementary school students to high school students -- can't wait for summer vacation to begin, this enthusiasm can quickly start to wane as the long days leave many with nothing to do. Indeed, many end up heading to local malls or big box retailers in search of a cure for their boredom, yet end up doing nothing more than wandering about aimlessly.

While this isn't usually cause for concern, there is always the possibility for peer pressure to rear its ugly head, with kids egging each other on to shoplift anything from candy or a dollar bin item to clothing or even a video game.

As disappointing as it can be for parents to receive a telephone call from the police or a store security guard informing them that their child has been caught shoplifting, it can also serve to be rather disconcerting if the store decides to press charges. That's largely because Florida law calls for stiff penalties for shoplifting.

How does Florida law define shoplifting?

First, it's important to establish that Florida law doesn't actually refer to it as shoplifting, but rather as retail theft. Second, it's important to understand that retail encompasses far more than simply concealing an item in a coat or pocket.

What then does retail theft cover?

Florida law dictates that retail theft occurs when a person intends to "deprive [a] merchant of possession, use, benefit or full retail value" through the commission of any of the following acts:

  • Possessing and carrying away merchandise, property, money, or negotiable documents
  • Altering or taking off price tags, universal product codes or labels
  • Removing a shopping cart
  • Transferring merchandise between containers

Can a store or merchant detain someone it suspects of committing retail theft?

State law dictates that merchants and law enforcement officers with probable cause to believe retail theft has occurred are indeed permitted to detain the person in a reasonable manner and for a reasonable length of time in order to recover merchandise and/or ensure prosecution.

We'll continue examining this subject in future posts ...

In the meantime, if your loved one has been charged with retail theft, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible to learn more about your options for protecting their rights, their reputation and their future.

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Andrew M. Coffey has been recognized as a Board Certified Civil Trial lawyer by the Florida Bar. Certification is the highest level of recognition by The Florida Bar of the competency and experience of attorneys in the areas of law approved for certification by the Supreme Court of Florida.

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