Each year, thousands of Florida teenagers find themselves on the wrong side of the law when a storekeeper or security guard accuses them of theft. While young people sometimes see shoplifting as a victimless crime committed against big and uncaring corporations, the consequences of an adjudication can be both serious and immense.
How Florida Charges Shoplifting Offenses
Florida has separate criminal justice systems for children and for adult offenders. However, state prosecutors will often levy similar charges against shoplifting suspects, regardless of their age. The potential penalties in a shoplifting charge are largely based on the value of the stolen product or goods:
- Property valued at $100 or less. Theft of property valued at $100 or less can be charged as petit theft in the second degree, a misdemeanor offense.
- Property Valued Between $101 and $300. The theft of property valued between $101 and $300 can be charged with petit theft in the first degree, a misdemeanor offense.
- Property Valued Bweteen $301 and 5k. The theft of property valued between $301 and $5,000 can be charged with grand theft in the third degree, a felony offense.
Other shoplifting offenses could be charged as grand theft in the first or second degree, both of which are felonies.
Potential Penalties After a Shoplifting Arrest
A teenager who is arrested and adjudicated guilty of a shoplifting offense could face the following penalties:
- Probation. A first-time offender may be sentenced to probation. While on probation, a teenager will have to meet certain conditions, such as attending therapy, shoplifting workshops, and finding gainful employment. They may have to seek a probation officer’s permission to travel out of state for family get-togethers and events. If the child violates the terms of their probation, they could be remanded to a juvenile detention center or adult jail.
- Diversion. A diversion program is an alternative to adjudication. When children are instructed to enter a pre-trial diversion program, they are subject to certain rules and regulations. They may also be ordered to attend educational programs, maintain a certain G.P.A., or perform community service. If the child completes the diversion program without incident, the court may dismiss the charges against them.
- Counseling. Juvenile offenders may be ordered to attend counseling independent of other punishments, or as a condition of probation or diversion. Counselors usually seek to address the root causes of a young person’s shoplifting, and work with them to develop better coping strategies.
- Confinement. Children who have a prior juvenile criminal history or have been adjudicated guilty of grand theft, could be sent to a juvenile penitentiary to serve a sentence of confinement.
The Consequences of a Juvenile Criminal Record
Florida’s juvenile justice system strives to let most young offenders make amends and enjoy the same opportunities as other youth. Most juvenile records will be automatically expunged, barring any future run-ins with the law.
Unfortunately, juvenile records can still limit a young person in many ways because:
- Many juvenile offenses will not be expunged until a child is in their early- to mid-20s, years after they have already started looking for jobs or applying to colleges
- Even after an offense is expunged, the child may still be required to disclose the adjudication when applying for certain positions and professional licensures
A juvenile misdemeanor or felony adjudication could:
- Prevent a young person from joining the military
- Limit a student’s ability to obtain federal financial aid or scholarships for college and university
- Show up on background checks, making it more difficult to find a job or rent an apartment
The Risks of an Adult Criminal Case
Florida state law affords prosecutors significant discretion in determining how to best charge suspected offenders.
The prosecutor will look at your child’s existing juvenile criminal history and the circumstances of the alleged shoplifting incident to determine how to charge your child. If your child is over the age of 16, or committed felony grand theft, they could be charged as an adult, in adult court.
An adult criminal record carries very serious consequences, including the possibility of prison time, heavy fines, and a record that cannot be erased.
If Your Child Has Been Arrested for Shoplifting, You Need an Attorney
Shoplifting may seem less serious than other offenses. However, many storekeepers and corporations—both big and small—take these crimes very seriously and will not agree to drop charges against even an underage suspect.
A shoplifting offense could change your child’s future forever, forcing them to put off college, lose valuable job opportunities, or defer enlistment in the armed services.
Flaherty & Merrifield Criminal Defense knows that young people make mistakes: your child deserves a second chance, not incarceration and a life-altering criminal record. Depending on the circumstances of your child’s case, we could convince the courts that your child simply made a mistake and never intended to steal. If that is not an option, our extensive experience in Florida’s courts could allow us to make a deal with the prosecutor, ensuring that your child never ends up with an adjudication or criminal conviction.
Contact a Crestview Criminal Defense Attorney
If you or a loved one have been charged with shoplifting in Crestview, call Flaherty & Merrifield today at (850) 398-8098 for a free consultation.