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Shoplifting may seem minor, but it has serious consequences

Shoplifting is one of those crimes that people view as a minor, non-violent criminal offense. Unlike an armed robbery that brings to mind violence and threats of imminent physical harm, taking a 12-pack of beer from a convenience store without paying for it might not be thought of as being on the same level as a robbery, but it can be in Florida.

The serious consequences associated with shoplifting were dramatically illustrated by the recent arrest of a homeless man for taking a carton of beer. The beer soon became a felony theft charge because he had prior convictions for theft charges on his record. He was also charged with trespassing because employees at the store had warned him months before not to return to the store.

The severity of the crime and the penalties imposed for a theft charge conviction generally depends upon the value of the property that was taken. For example, if the property taken is valued at $300 or more, the person may be charged with grand theft as a felony. If the value is less than $100, the charge is a second degree misdemeanor unless there is a prior theft charge conviction. In that case, the theft charge is increased to a first degree misdemeanor.

Courts in Hillsborough County may impose jail or prison and fines as penalties for committing the crime of shoplifting. Suspension of a person's driver's license is one of the other far reaching consequences of a petit theft conviction. The suspension is for six months for a first conviction and one year for a second conviction.

Source:  NWF Daily News, "Man charged with theft, four nights later trespassing," June 12, 2015

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