Ringsmuth, Day & O’Halloran, PLLC - Fort Myers Criminal Defense
Former Prosecutors

Was your college student arrested for shoplifting?

When your child received his or her acceptance to Florida Gulf Coast University, you were probably full of pride. You were optimistic for your child's success, but you also knew that he or she would spend some time out with friends having fun.

You may even expect your college student to do some drinking -- hopefully responsibly. Then one day, you received a call that police arrested your child for shoplifting, of all things. Before you move forward, it may help to understand what that means here in Florida.

Retail theft definition

Florida law identifies "retail theft," more commonly referred to as shoplifting, as engaging in the following, thus depriving the merchant of the items and/or payment for them:

  • Taking property or merchandise from a store
  • Taking money or negotiable instruments from a store
  • Removing a shopping cart from the business' premises
  • Fraudulently altering a price tag
  • Removing a universal product code, price tag or label

The value of the item or items taken determines whether the charge is for grand theft or petit theft.

Retail theft penalties

Depending on the value of the property, your son or daughter could face the following penalties if convicted:

  • Between $301 and $5,000, the charge is a third-degree felony, or third-degree grand theft. The potential penalties include a fine up to $5,000 and up to five years in prison.
  • Between $101 and $300, the charge is first-degree petit theft. The possible penalties include a six-month driver's license suspension for the first offense and one year for a subsequent offense, plus a $1,000 fine, up to a year in jail and one year of probation.
  • The charge is second-degree petit theft when the value is less than $100. The possible penalties include a fine up to $500 and up to 60 days in jail.

Please note that the law upgrades a second offense for retail theft of less than $100 to a first-degree misdemeanor. After two or more retail theft offenses, the charge goes from a misdemeanor to a third-degree felony. For this reason alone, addressing a first offense right away is a good idea.

Another reason to address retail theft charges as quickly as possible is that your college student will more than likely face administrative proceedings from the university as well. The combination of criminal proceedings and university administrative proceedings could easily jeopardize your son or daughter's future. Even though he or she made a mistake, the question is whether that one mistake should derail or delay your child's future.

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