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Florida teens face felony charges over underwear theft

Two Florida teenagers are in serious trouble over women's underwear. The two have been accused of stealing over $15,000 in lingerie items from a Victoria's Secret store in Sunrise. One of the youths is 18, the other is 17. Police allege the two were caught on surveillance video; to add insult to injury, one of their mothers saw the video, called police and identified her son. The two young men are both facing felony charges of grand theft.

The 17-year-old is fortunate that he hasn't yet reached his 18th birthday. His case should be handled in juvenile court, where the emphasis is on rehabilitation, not punishment. Even if found guilty, any juvenile crime will not result in his having a criminal record as an adult.

Shoplifting charges can have far reaching consequences for those who are convicted. For the 18-year-old, a conviction would mean a possible prison sentence. It would also result in a criminal record that would make employment and housing more difficult to obtain.

Defenses are possible in shoplifting cases. Many cases turn on the testimony of store employees, and they may not have had a good view of what actually happened. On cross-examination by defense counsel, the reliability of their testimony can often be discredited. In other cases the accused may have mistakenly left the store without paying for an item. If they can persuade jurors it was a good faith mistake, the prosecution will have failed to prove the essential element of intent, and the accused should be acquitted. If the evidence of guilt appears overwhelming, a plea agreement to a lesser charge and a reduced sentence is often still attainable.

Source: New York Daily News, "Two Florida boys arrested for stealing $15,000 worth of women's underwear," Joel Landau, Jan. 20, 2014

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