Retail theft or Shoplifting can be an embarrassing charge because when people hear this accusation, they make judgments about the person. Judgments that the person is dishonest, or a thief. And often times, the crime was committed out of necessity or on a whim for a thrill.

Retail theft is considered a crime of dishonesty and a conviction cannot be expunged or removed from your record. A conviction can keep you from employment opportunities or pose risk to your current job.

My name is Tim Flaherty. I have been a Fort Walton Beach shoplifting defense lawyer since 2001. My partner’s name is Brandy Merrifield. She has worked with me since 2007. Brandy and I would be glad to help you, so give us a call at (850) 243-6097 and lets get this taken care of for you.

Just because you have been arrested does not mean you have been convicted. You have options you may not be aware of. You may have a chance to get your charges dropped or diverted. If your case is dismissed through Pretrial Diversion, you may also be eligible to have the record Expunged or Sealed.

Police involvement in Fort Walton Beach shoplifting cases

Retail theft, commonly referred to as shoplifting, is the most common form of theft in Fort Walton Beach. In Florida, merchants no longer act independently if they see a theft occur. If a merchant witnesses a theft they immediately call the Police Department or Sheriff’s Office. The officer will interrogate the suspect and try to get them to confess to the crime. Past clients have told us that before they even had a chance to process what was happening or how much trouble they were in, they were in handcuffs being arrested.

Penalty for Retail Theft in Fort Walton Beach

Retail theft under Florida law is not just a low level misdemeanor. It can be enhanced based on the circumstances of your past and your present case. To prove the crime of Retail Theft pursuant to Florida Statute 812.015, the State must prove the following:

  1. Defendant knowingly took possession of or carried away merchandise, or altered or removed a label or price tag from merchandise, or transferred merchandise from one container to another, or removed a shopping cart from a merchant’s premises.
  2. Defendant intended to deprive the merchant of possession, use, benefit, or full retail value of the merchandise.

The penalty for Retail Theft is largely determined by the value of the merchandise that was stolen:

  • If the value of the stolen merchandise was less than $100.00, Retail Theft is a second degree misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of 60 days in jail and a $500.00 fine.
  • If the value was more than $100.00 but less than $750.00, the charge is a first degree misdemeanor with a potential sentence of 12 months in jail and a $1000.00 fine.
  • If the value of the merchandise was over $750.00, you will be charged with a third degree felony and will face up to 5 years in prison and a $5000.00 fine.
  • If you are convicted of Retail Theft, you will also face a suspension of your driver’s license for 6 months for a first offense, and 12 months for any subsequent offense.

Civil Penalty for Retail theft in Fort Walton Beach

Many merchants immediately impose a civil penalty whether or not they have received the merchandise back. The civil penalty is generally $200; however, the merchant can seek further damages, attorney’s fees and court costs. You will only have a short amount of time to either pay the penalty or fight it. It is in your best interest to contact an experienced Fort Walton Beach theft defense attorney to advise you immediately after an arrest for Retail Theft.

Successfully defending a Shoplifting charge in Fort Walton Beach

Given the severity of consequences for this charge, do not fight this alone. You do not want to take the first deal the State offers you because it will likely mean a conviction on your record. If this is not an option for you, call us so that we can get to work helping you.

We have successfully defended hundreds of clients charged with Retail Theft in Fort Walton Beach. We will do a comprehensive review of all options, including:

  • Review all evidence including video evidence from the merchant
  • Speak with witnesses and determine favorable witnesses
  • Evaluate whether or not this was a mistake of identity or mistake in purchase
  • Work with you to have your story heard
  • Compile mitigation to persuade the State to drop the charges
  • Review all legal defenses for potential motions against the State

Have You Been Arrested For a Robbery or Theft in Florida?

If you've been arrested for robbery or theft in Fort Walton Beach, call Flaherty & Merrifield at (850) 243-6097 for a free, confidential case review.

Brandy Merrifield
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Florida Criminal Defense Attorney