Miami Shoplifting Lawyer

Our criminal defense law firm routinely represents clients accused of shoplifting (also known as “retail theft”) in Miami and other counties. Surprisingly enough, our typical client is a professional without prior contact with the criminal justice system. Although false arrests do occur (and are defended aggressively by our shoplifting defense attorneys), most shoplifting clients attempted to shoplift when loss prevention officers detained them. The client cannot explain their actions and is deeply ashamed and embarrassed. A conviction for theft charges can have lasting consequences. Our Miami shoplifting lawyers strive to minimize the effects and ramifications of our client’s cases to help them put the case behind them and move on with their professional and personal lives without a criminal record.

Shoplifting Charges and Retail Theft in Miami

Under Florida law, a shoplifting charge is usually prosecuted under the general theft crimes law, Florida Statute 812.014. When someone is caught shoplifting in Miami—or anywhere in Florida for that matter—they usually are charged with either a misdemeanor petit theft charge (also known as “petty theft”) or grand theft, a third-degree felony. A shoplifting defense attorney will want to know the value of the merchandise allegedly stolen because the punishment for shoplifting and the degree of the theft crime depends on the property’s value.

Florida Retail Theft Law

People can also be charged with shoplifting under Florida’s retail theft law, Florida Statute 812.015. Florida law 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.

Penalties for Shoplifting & Retail Theft in Miami

Florida criminal law defines crimes by the maximum jail sentence you can receive for the crime. Again, the punishments below are maximum sentences (It is improbable that you would receive the maximum—much less receive a criminal conviction or any jail time for shoplifting—if you hire a competent shoplifting defense lawyer).

Penalties for Shoplifting in Miami

If you are charged with shoplifting under the Florida theft statute, the degree of the crime and punishment you face will be based on the property’s value:

  • Second-Degree Petit Theft (less than $100.00) – maximum punishment is 60 days in jail (second-degree misdemeanor).
  • First-Degree Petit Theft (Less than $750 but $100 or more) – maximum punishment is 364 days in the county jail (first-degree misdemeanor).
  • Third Degree Grand Theft (The property value is less than $20,000, but $750 or more) Maximum Penalty: up to 5 years in state prison and a fine of up to $5,000 (Third-Degree Felony)
  • Second Degree Grand Theft (The property value is less than $100,000, but more than $20,000) Maximum Penalty: up to 15 years in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000 (Second-Degree Felony)
  • First Degree Grand Theft (The property value is $100,000 or more) Maximum Penalty: up to 30 years in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000 (First-Degree Felony)

In addition to a possible jail sentence and a criminal record, a person convicted of shoplifting in Miami can receive a driver’s license suspension for up to six months on a first conviction and up to one year on a second shoplifting conviction. The court can also impose fines for a shoplifting conviction.

Penalties for Retail Theft in Miami

If you are charged with shoplifting under Florida’s retail theft statute, the degree of the crime and punishment you face can be based on a combination of the property value and other circumstances.

A person can also face a third-degree felony charge punishable by up to 5 years in state prison and a fine of up to $5,000 if they are accused of:

  • Coordinating the activities of others to commit multiple acts of retail theft within a 30-day period, resulting in stolen property with a value of $750 or more
  • Conspiring with another person to commit retail theft and sell the stolen property, resulting in stolen property with a value of $750 or more
  • Committing theft from multiple locations within a 30-day period, resulting in stolen property with a value of $750 or more
  • Acting in concert with others to distract a merchant or law enforcement officer in order to carry out the offense, resulting in stolen property with a value of $750 or more
  • Committing retail theft through the purchase of a package or box containing merchandise other than or in addition to what is purported to be inside, resulting in stolen property with a value of $750 or more
  • Committing 5 or more retail thefts within a 30-day period and obtaining or using 10 or more items of merchandise, regardless of the value of such merchandise, and 2 or more of the thefts occurring at different physical merchant locations

A person can face a second-degree felony retail theft charge punishable by up to 15 years in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000 if:

  • They have a previous felony retail theft conviction for one of above-listed offenses
  • They coordinate with one or more people to commit retail theft with a value over $3,000 within a 30-day period
  • They conspire with someone to commit retail theft with the intent to sell the stolen property for profit, and then give or cause the property to be given to someone else in exchange for something, where the stolen property’s value is over $3,000 within a 30-day period
  • They commit 5 or more retail thefts within a 30-day period, obtaining or using 20 or more items of merchandise in the process, and at least 2 of the thefts occur at different physical retail locations

Defenses to Shoplifting

Sometimes, an innocent mistake can result in a false arrest. To prove the crime of shoplifting, the prosecution must show that the defendant intended to commit theft. The fact that you may have left the store with an item in plain sight indicates that you were probably absent-minded and not planning to steal. Having a cold, being tired, or even being a little intoxicated could have contributed to your behavior. Some people even get home before realizing they had inadvertently taken something without paying for it. On the other hand, if a store employee observes someone concealing an item, it is more likely that they intended to commit a theft offense.

woman shoplifting in storeSometimes, people place items at the bottom of their shopping carts when they are shopping. Some people are detained by store security on their way back to the store after realizing they had mistakenly taken something. The intent to permanently deprive the store of the property is essential in a shoplifting case. You might be able to argue that you were arrested before you were able to bring something back. Some people are even charged with shoplifting when they are in the process of returning items they previously paid for. In these cases, store surveillance video showing them entering the store with the items can cause the prosecutor to dismiss the case.

Finally, store security employees sometimes make mistakes. They might misidentify someone as being the person who stole the property or thinks a person is shoplifting when they actually aren’t. Even simple things like the angle of their view can affect their perspective. The footage from security cameras isn’t always reliable, either. The video can often be grainy or shot at a weird angle. A skilled criminal defense lawyer from our law firm can analyze the evidence in the case to see if it conflicts with the loss prevention officer’s testimony.

Civil Liability for Shoplifting

In addition to potential criminal penalties for shoplifting, the store may send you a “Civil Demand” letter, citing the Florida civil theft law that allows stores to sue shoplifters. To reimburse the store for theft-related expenses, the letter demands $200 from you. They will threaten you with civil liability if you don’t pay. If you ignore the letter, the store may continue to send additional letters with increasing amounts. Occasionally, loss prevention employees insist you pay $200 before leaving the store. If you were wrongfully accused, you could file a false imprisonment lawsuit against the store. Many stores will call the police and send you a civil demand letter later.

In most cases, it is possible to disregard the letter, especially if the stolen item is not worth much. You are not required to pay money if you receive a civil demand letter. Due to low production and mailing costs, many stores always send these letters. In some cases, however, the store may file a civil lawsuit as a next step. A store may not find this worthwhile in cases of minor theft. Nevertheless, they might still take action.

Contact an Experienced Miami Shoplifting Attorney

Contact us immediately if you or someone you love has been arrested or charged with shoplifting or retail theft in Miami-Dade County or anywhere else in South Florida. It is critical to consult with an experienced Miami shoplifting attorney as soon as possible to ensure your rights are protected. You need the legal advice of one of our law firm’s experienced shoplifting lawyers to guide you through the process and maximize your chances of resolving your criminal case without a conviction, fines, or jail time.

Over the years, we have represented hundreds of clients accused of stealing property in shoplifting cases in Miami, Broward, and Palm Beach. There is a good chance that we have dealt with your type of case and have represented clients who shared similar needs and concerns. By taking the immediate action of hiring a shoplifting lawyer to defend yourself, you are minimizing the chances that your case will have lasting consequences for your career, personal life, and reputation.

CALL US for a FREE CONFIDENTIAL CONSULTATION at (305) 538-4545, or take a moment to fill out our secure intake form. *The additional information you provide will greatly assist us in responding to your inquiry.


*Due to the large number of people who contact our law office requesting our assistance in theft crime cases, it is strongly suggested that you take the time to provide us with specific details regarding your case by filling out our confidential and secure intake form. The additional details you provide will greatly assist us in responding to your inquiry promptly and appropriately.