||Theft / Shoplifting under Florida Law|
Tampa Theft Crimes Lawyer
Theft Offenses in General - "Crime of Dishonesty"
The Florida legislature has enacted varying degrees of theft charges with different maximum penalties. Any theft charge, from misdemeanor shoplifting to grand theft, is a serious offense because it is considered "a crime of dishonesty" that can be used against you when you apply for a job, during a background employment check, or if you ever testify in a court of law.
Under the Florida Fingerprint Requirement, anyone found guilty of petit theft is required to have their fingerprints taken in court, and the judge is required to affix a written judgment to the file which then becomes a public record. Even if you are not convicted, your name can go into a national database used by employers when they conduct background checks. Additionally, prior convictions for theft can increase the sentence if you are caught re-offending, and in certain cases, the charge can be enhanced based on a prior conviction.
If you have been arrested for any type of theft charge, contact the Sammis Law Firm, P.A. Our consultations can be scheduled the same day for an office or telephone consultation. If you need a shoplifting or theft attorney for a case in Hillsborough County, Polk County, Pinellas County, Pasco County, or in any surrounding area, contact our office today.
Theft Cases include:
Protecting Yourself After a Theft Accusation
False accusations for theft offenses do occur for numerous reasons. If you have been falsely accused of any kind of theft offense you should act quickly to have an attorney address the issue before a filing decision is made by the State Attorney's Office.
For instance, in shoplifting cases, the fact that the item was taken out of the store may have been an accident that was caused when the shopper became distracted. Even in cases in which law enforcement believes that the shopper may have taken the item by mistake, the officer may still make an arrest and go forward with a prosecution because of "department policy." An attorney can best present your side of the story to law enforcement, the alleged victim and the state attorney's office in an attempt to convince them not to go forward with a prosecution even days after the incident.
In other cases, theft or shoplifting is a symptom of an underlying psychological problem that can best be addressed outside of the criminal justice system. By being proactive in seeking counseling, you may be able to show the court, prosecutor, and alleged victim that you do not deserve a jail or prison sentence. Contact an experienced theft attorney early in your case so that you can discuss ways to address the behavior that lead to the accusation in order to obtain the best possible disposition in the criminal case.
Finding the Best Attorney to Fight for You
If you have been arrested for any offense involving theft, contact an experienced Tampa Theft Attorney to discuss your case in Tampa or Plant City, Hillsborough County, Clearwater or St. Petersburg, Pinellas County, Bartow, Polk County, New Port Richey or Dade City, Pasco County, Brooksville, Hernando County, Bradenton, Manatee County, or Sarasota County.
· Employee Theft / Embezzlement
· Penalties for Theft Offenses
The criminal offense of shoplifting or retail theft can be charged as either a misdemeanor ("petit theft") or a felony ("grand theft"). Any theft offense whether a misdemeanor or a felony is considered a "crime of dishonesty" or an impeachable offense. In many of these case, an innocent mistake can turn into a criminal accusation even for someone who has never been arrested or accused of any criminal offense before.
The vast majority of our clients charged with petit theft are women who have never been arrested before. In many of these cases, our client is terrified about the effect the arrest and prosecution will have on their employment opportunities in the future. We are experienced in working with women to defend them against an accusation of shoplifting or petit theft in Hillsborough County, Pasco County, Pinellas County, Polk County, Hernando County and Manatee County, FL.
Each county has different diversion programs that may be available for certain theft charges. For certain programs you may be required to admit guilty or give up your right to expunge your criminal record. The retail store may threaten to sue you for civil damages related to the accusation of theft. Having an experienced attorney to guide you through the process is important in any shoplifting or petit theft case in Florida.
Shoplifting or Retail Theft Penalties
The maximum penalty for a retail theft or shoplifting accusation depends on the value of the item taken.
- If the value of the item taken was less than $100, then the offense will be charged as a petit theft in the second degree which is punishable by up to sixty (60) days in the county jail and a $500 fine plus court costs.
- If the value of the item taken is more than $300, then the offense will be charged as a petit theft in the first degree which is punishable by up to 12 months (364 days) in the county jail and a $1,000.00 fine.
- If the individual has ever been convicted to any two other theft offenses, then the person can be charged with Felony Petit Theft (even if the value of the item was only $1), which is a third degree felony punishable by five (5) years in Florida State Prison, and a five thousand ($5,000.00) fine plus court costs.
- If the value of the item taken was in excess of $300, then the offense can be charged as Felony Retail Theft which is also a third degree felony.
We represent clients charged with shoplifting throughout the Tampa Bay area. Click here for more information on Shoplifting / Petit Theft / Petit Theft (less than $300).
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Employee Theft or Embezzlement
The criminal offense of employee theft or embezzlement is treated harshly under Florida law. Like any theft offense, it is considered a crime of dishonesty. In many of these cases, the employee has worked for the company for years, has no criminal history, and has taken in excess of $100,000.00. Without the proper representation prison sentences are common for these types of offenses even if the employee has no other criminal record.
If your employer suspects you of theft, talk with an experienced criminal defense attorney before making any statement to the employer or any law enforcement officer. Click here for more information on Employee Theft / Embezzlement.
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Penalties for Theft Offenses Depend on the Value of the Item Stolen
Grand Theft in the First Degree:
- If the value of the property stolen is $100,000 or more, then the offense will be classified as a Grand Theft in the First Degree, which is a First Degree Felony punishable by a maximum sentence of 30 years in Florida State Prison, and a fine of up to $10,000.00.
Grand Theft in the Second Degree:
- If the value of the property stolen is more than $20,000 but less than $100,000.00, then the offense will be classified as a Grand Theft in the Second Degree, which is a Second Degree Felony punishable by a maximum sentence of 15 years in Florida State Prison, and a fine of up to $10,000.00.
Grand Theft in the Third Degree:
- If the value of the property stolen is more than $300 but less than $20,000.00, then the offense will be classified as a Grand Theft in the Third Degree, which is a Third Degree Felony punishable by a maximum sentence of 5 years in Florida State Prison and a $5,000.00 fine.
- Even if the value of the property is less than $300, the offense may still be a third degree felony if the item stolen is a gun, rifle, firearm, stop sign or other property listed below.
Petit Theft in the First Degree:
- If the value of the property stolen is more than $100 but less than $300, then the offense will be classified as a Petit Theft in the First Degree punishable by 12 months in the county jail and a $1,000.00 fine.
- Additionally, if the person charged has ever been previously convicted of any two theft offense, then the person may be charged with a Third Degree Felony.
Petit Theft in the Second Degree:
- If the value of the property stolen is less $100.00, then the person may be charged with Petit Theft in the Second Degree, which is punishable by 60 days in the county jail and a $500.00 fine.
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Obtaining Property for a Worthless Check
The criminal offense of obtaining property for a worthless check is a common offense in Florida. Obtaining a private attorney to handle the accusation can result in the charges being dropped by the prosecutor before the warrant is ever served so that you do not have to go into custody. If you have been arrested for obtaining property for a worthless check, contact an attorney at the Sammis Law Firm to discuss your case today at 813-250-0500.
Florida Statute Section 832.05 defines the Florida crime of Obtaining Property for a Worthless Check, Drafts and Debit Card orders, defined under Florida law to include a situation in which an individual writes a check to obtain some property or service from another individual when the person who wrote the check knows that there are insufficient funds to cover the check.
Common defenses to the charge of obtaining property for a worthless check include the following:
- You Did Not Know the Check Would Bounce - A common defense to the criminal charge of obtaining property with a worthless check involves the "knowingly" requirement. Many people find who are charged with this worthless check offense in Florida are not guilty because they were in a a difficult financial situation and wrote the check thinking that there was sufficient funds in the account, but then later found out the check bounced because of account mismanagement or some other mistake that often occurs with someone under financial stress or does not properly balance their checkbook.
- The Person Accepted the Check Knew or Should Have Known the Check was Worthless - It is a defense to the charge if the person accepting the check is expressly notified prior to accepting the check or has reason to believe that there are insufficient funds in the bank to cover the check at the moment it is accepted. For instance, if you asked the person accepting the check to hold or delay depositing the check for even a brief period or was given any other reason to believe that the check would not honored, then the person is not guilty of the criminal offense under Florida law.
- Post- Dated Checks - It is a defense to the charge if the person accepting the check accepts a "post dated check," because the fact that the check is post dated indicates to the person accepting the check that there are insufficient funds in the account at the moment the check is accepted.
- Stopping Payment with Intent to Defraud - If the person who issued the check subsequently "stopped payment" on the check, then the offense can not be prosecuted under this section of Florida law.
- Forged Check - Likewise, a forged check can not be prosecuted under this section.
The statute specifically provides that the person who accepts the check does not have reason to believe that the person who presents the check does not have sufficient funds SOLELY because the person paying with the check has previously issued a worthless check to him or her.
The statute also specifically provides that payment of the dishonored check, draft, bill of exchange or debit card order does not constitute a defense or ground for dismissal of the charges. The offense of obtaining a worthless check is a first degree misdemeanor in Florida when the check is for an amount less than $150.00, punishable by up to 12 months in the county jail. In the event the check is written for $150.00 or more, then the offense is a third degree felony punishable by up to five (5) years in Florida State Prison.
National Organization for Shoplifting Prevention NASP - Nationwide, non-partisan coalition working to address shoplifting prevention and juvenile justice issues, and provides rehabilitative educational programs for adults or juveniles with a pending court case or after a court order.
Cleptomaniacs and Shoplifters Anonymous CASA - Treatment and recovery through counseling and support groups.
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If you have been arrested or accused of any theft charge, including shoplifting, fraud, theft, employee theft, or any similar offense, contact an experienced Tampa Theft Attorney to discuss your case. At the Sammis Law Firm, we handle cases throughout central Florida, including Hillsborough County, Pinellas County, Polk County, Pasco County, and the surrounding areas.
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