shoplifting defense attorneyOne of the most frequent arrests in Okaloosa County is Retail Theft, more commonly referred to as Shoplifting. Although most shoplifting crimes are typically charged as misdemeanors, a conviction can have lifelong consequences. A conviction for shoplifting can affect your opportunities for employment, scholarships, credit, and housing, not to mention giving you the reputation of a thief.

If you have been charged with retail theft, call the Okaloosa County shoplifting defense lawyers with Flaherty & Merrifield at (850) 243-6097 to find out how we can get your case resolved without a negative impact on your future.

Shoplifting Under Florida Law

Florida Statute 812.015(1)(d) defines retail theft as “the taking possession of, or carrying away of, merchandise, property, money, or negotiable documents; altering or removing a label, universal product code, or price tag; transferring merchandise from one container to another; or removing a shopping cart, with intent to deprive the merchant of possession, use, benefit, or full retail value.”

Depending on the value of the merchandise allegedly stolen, retail theft can be classified as either misdemeanor petit theft or felony grand theft.

In cases involving items that are valued at $100 or less the charge is typically a second degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500.00 fine.  Merchandise that is worth more than $100 but less than $750 is usually treated as a first degree misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1000.00 fine.

Can Shoplifting be charged as a felony in Okaloosa County?

Yes it can. If the property that was alleged to have been stolen was valued at $750.00 or more, you face a charge of Grand Theft, a third degree felony with a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

What is Resisting a Retail Merchant?

If you were recently charged with Shoplifting or Retail Theft, and the State alleges that you ran away from the store’s loss prevention officer or resisted them in any way, it is possible that you will also be charged with Resisting a Retail Merchant. This charge is a first degree misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of 1 year in jail and a $1000.00 fine.

According to Florida Statute 812.015, the State is required to prove the following elements:

  • The defendant was committing, or had committed a theft of property from the owner or custodian of the property;
  • During or after the theft, the victim made a reasonable effort to recover the property;
  • The defendant resisted the victim’s effort to recover the property;
  • At the time of the defendant’s resistance, the victim had probable cause to believe the defendant had concealed or removed the property from its place of display or the place where the property had been kept, and
  • The victim was a merchant, merchant’s employee, or law enforcement officer.

Do I Really Need an Attorney for a Shoplifting charge?

Sometimes people will tell us they don’t need an attorney for a shoplifting charge because in their eyes, it is not that serious of a crime. This is not true. You need someone to stand up for you and make sure you’re treated fairly. I have been defending clients charged with Retail Theft in Okaloosa County since 2001. We have had a lot of success helping clients avoid a lifelong conviction for shoplifting.

Defending your Okaloosa County Shoplifting Charge

Whether you were physically arrested and taken to jail or given a Notice to Appear in court, the potential penalties are the same and you need an advocate to ensure that you do not end up with a conviction.

In order to convict you of shoplifting, the state must prove two elements:

  • That you knowingly took possession of or carried away merchandise and
  • You intended to deprive the merchant of their merchandise.

It is our job to make sure that doesn’t happen. We will explore all options available to you, advise you of your opinions and keep you in the loop during each step of the process.

One common and effective way to resolve Okaloosa County Shoplifting charges is with a referral to Pretrial Diversion. Pretrial Diversion is an agreement between you and the State. You will have a series of conditions to complete, and as long as you complete them and don’t get re-arrested, the State will dismiss your case.

Call an Okaloosa County Shoplifting Defense Attorney

If you or a loved one have been accused of a crime 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