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How Can I be Arrested for Retail Theft if I Didn’t Leave the Store?

Tampa criminal attorneys are often asked about how someone could be arrested and charged with petit theft or retail theft, when they never made it out of the store with the item.  Unfortunately, this is generally not a legal defense to the charge because of the specific language of the Statute regarding theft in Florida.  It was clearly drafted with this situation in mind by the Florida Legislature.

First, petit theft or retail theft is regulated by Florida Statute Section 812.014.  This Statute covers everything from basic misdemeanor petit theft to felony grand theft.  Generally, the most significant defining factor between the levels of theft is the amount of the item allegedly stolen.  Obviously as the amount increases, the severity of the offense increases.  While petit theft or retail theft is simply a misdemeanor, it still has long lasting implications on someone’s employment and future plans as it is deemed a crime of dishonesty both legally and practically.  From a legal standpoint, an adjudication of a crime of dishonesty can be used to impeach someone’s future testimony.  From a factual standpoint, it will inevitably be viewed negatively by future employers and/or others.  Tampa criminal attorneys will often utilize these convictions to impeach otherwise credible witnesses’s testimony.

Secondly, the Statute specifically penalizes an individual that “endeavors to obtain or use…” The State will argue that the act of concealing, removing tags, removing theft prevention items, or whatever the case may be amounts to demonstrating the intent to endeavor to steal the item.  We have seen situations where the State has successfully argued all of the above.  Generally, juries are pretty receptive to these arguments since the above-described actions are well outside of the norm, despite the arguments of Tampa criminal attorneys.  It is worth noting a new trend in shoplifting occurs when individuals dig through the garbage in front of stores to find a receipt, go inside, find the same item on the receipt and attempt to return it.  Again, this amounts to theft under the Statute again relying on that same “endeavor” language.

Lastly, there are many defenses to the petit/retail theft charges.  Often times, Tampa criminal defense attorneys are able to the successful defend these charges based on challenging the identification of the accused and challenging the intent of the individual.  As with many other criminal statutes, Tampa criminal attorneys can successfully challenge based on lack of intent, when the accused makes no statements to law enforcement immediately after the arrest.  This is clearly another reason for individuals to utilize their right to remain silent as we have discussed throughout this Tampa criminal attorney blog.

If you or someone you know has been charged with petit/retail theft or has questions concerning their case, contact the Tampa criminal attorneys of Hackworth Law for a free case consultation.  If you would like to contact one of our Tampa criminal attorneys, please use the “contact us now” tab on the upper right hand portion of our website.  Thanks for your time in checking out our blog.