Florida has long had laws prohibiting retail theft. But its legislature is also considering adding another offense, with charges that could impose even more severe penalties.
The bill, SB 1534, would place the offense of organized retail theft among Florida’s theft and property crimes. One example of this type of theft, also known as boosting, occurs when a person fills up a shopping cart with costly merchandise and runs outside to an accomplice waiting in a running vehicle.
If passed, the measure would classify the theft of at least 10 items from two different locations within 30 days as a third-degree felony. The theft of at least 20 items would be classified as a second-degree felony.
The state’s attorney general and the Florida Retail Association support this bill. The Senate vote 38-0 to approve the measure on Feb. 17. A similar measure in the House is before its Judiciary Committee.
Criminal justice reform advocates and other critics oppose this measure. They argue that felony charges should be restricted to violent offenses.
Additionally, according to opponents, the penalties may be unreasonably harsh in many circumstances and place undue emphasis on frequency instead of the value of merchandise. For example, a thief who stole a number of low-priced school supplies from two different stores could face felony charges.
Critics also claim that a person with a compulsory disorder could face felony charges. In other words, a kleptomaniac or person with other mental heath issue would face serious penalties for repeatedly stealing items with limited value.
Bill supporters, however, point out that the measure contains a $750 threshold. Also, prosecutors would be unlikely to take low value offenses to court.
A shoplifting conviction of even inexpensive items may have long-term and unintended consequences. Attorneys can help protect rights in these prosecutions.