Businesses across the United States spent months gearing up for Black Friday. Not only did they ensure that they had all their wares marked down and ready to sell, but they also prepared for the inevitable onslaught of shoplifters trying to capitalize on the busy and overcrowded stores. To prevent shrinkage (losses due to theft) retailers across Florida hired additional security in the hopes of nabbing those trying to take merchandise without paying.
While stores obviously have an interest in ensuring they are not victimized by theft, it is important that they not be overzealous in their efforts to curb shoplifters. It is not uncommon for shoppers to be unfairly detained, even when they did not intend to do anything wrong. If this happened to you, be sure to protect your legal rights and defend yourself.
Security Guards Are Able to Hold a Shoplifter Until Police Arrive
It’s often said that security guards are nothing more than “rent-a-cops” that don’t have any actual authority. However, that is not necessarily the case. Florida law allows for a security guard who witnesses a crime to detain the shoplifter until the police arrive. Once the police arrive, the shoplifter can be charged with theft.
Theft Crimes in Florida
In Florida theft is defined as intentionally depriving the owner of property of their ownership right. Essentially, this is exactly how most of us would intuitively define theft. Theft statutes in Florida cover various kinds of activity designed to deprive an owner of their lawful property, including:
- walking out of a store with good concealed on your body;
- switching the prices of goods and then paying the lower price;
- returning items fraudulently; and
- any other way of depriving an owner of their good without the owner’s permission
Intent to Deprive Can Be Inferred from the Surrounding Circumstances
The police do not need to catch someone with the good concealed under their coat in order to charge that person with theft. Even in cases where it is not 100% clear if the person was intending to deprive the store owner of the property, the police may be able to charge the person with theft.
A good example of this is “price switching.” Price switching is when a person swaps the price tag of an expensive item with that of another inexpensive item and then purchases the expensive item with the lower price tag. Even though in this case the person is not technically stealing anything, this kind of behavior is illegal because it is depriving the owner of the higher priced item at a price they did not agree to.
Have You Been Caught for Petty Theft in Florida?
If you have been charged with a theft offense in Florida, you need to ensure that you have an experienced Florida criminal defense attorney at your side throughout the process. While a theft charge may not seem like the most serious charge, it is important that you defend against the charge because the consequences can be severe if ignored.
A conviction for theft can result in fines, mandatory community service, and in some cases jail time.
To defend yourself, speak with an experienced Florida petit theft attorney today. Call (305) 741-6997 and one of our lawyers will be happy to set a time to speak with you about the specific facts of your case.