Florida Woman Hides In Store Ceiling, Still Gets Arrested for Shoplifting

  • Jan 23 2020

How far would you go to avoid arrest? A South Florida woman climbed into the ceiling of a Big Lots and hid out for over five hours in an attempt to avoid getting arrested for shoplifting. Deputies “called off” the search for her, but one stayed behind and nabbed her when she crawled down. 

The news articles don’t say what the woman was suspected of doing before she climbed into the ceiling, or what she was charged with, but Florida law defines shoplifting broadly and can treat shoplifters very harshly.

Shoplifting Is More Than Slipping Something In Your Pocket 

Under Florida Statute § 812.015(1)(d), shoplifting, which is formally known as “retail theft” is defined as “…the taking possession of or carrying away of merchandise, property, money, or negotiable documents; altering or removing a label, universal product code [UPC], 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.” 

This means shoplifting isn’t just pocketing an item without paying for it. You can also be charged with retail theft for stealing gift cards or messing with gift certificates (those are both considered negotiable documents); screwing around with product packaging or labels; or taking a shopping cart home with you. You could even argue those individuals who were opening ice cream cartons, taking a lick, then putting them back on the shelf were committing retail theft under this definition. 

Shoplifting can be charged as petit or grand theft depending on the value of the stolen property.

  • Petit (petty) Theft — Occurs when the value of the merchandise in question is less than $750. It can be charged as a first or second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by 60 days to one year in jail, fines up to $1,000, or both.
  • Grand Theft — Occurs when the value of the merchandise in question is greater than $750. It is charged as a felony, with punishments of up to 30 years in prison based on the value of the property taken & Florida’s Criminal Punishment Code guidelines.

Whether you have had any prior run-ins with the law can make as big of a difference as the value of the property in question when the prosecutor is deciding if they should pursue your case, and what sort of sentence to seek. 

Lots of Evidence 

One of the things that makes shoplifting cases challenging is the fact that there is often a lot of evidence that a crime was committed. 

There is no disputing the value of the merchandise in question. The store will know exactly how much money they could or did lose. This helps the government easily decide if someone committed petit or grand theft. 

Oftentimes there is video or photographic evidence of what happened in the store that prosecutors can use to bolster their case. The price of this technology keeps going down, so more and more stores have it. Getting this evidence thrown out or just throwing doubt on it can be really important. 

Not Every Day Can Be A Good One

The day you get accused of shoplifting is not going to be a good day. But working with an experienced criminal defense attorney, who can advocate on your behalf before you even get close to trial, can make things better. Contact our office today to schedule an initial consultation. 

Posted in: Theft Crimes