In Florida, theft statutes provide different definitions of “value” depending on the type of theft involved. Theft of retail merchandise is prosecuted under the general theft statute found in Florida Statute 812.014, but is subject to the definitions of the specific retail theft statute found in Florida Statute 812.015.
The general theft provisions of Florida Statute 812.014 (and its definition section in Florida Statute 812.012), define the “value” of the stolen property as the market value of the property, or the cost of replacement of the property .
However, the retail theft provisions of Florida Statute 812.015, define the “value” of the stolen property as the sale price of the merchandise.
Therefore, in retail theft cases, the actual market value of the retail merchandise is not the price used in prosecution. Instead, it is the “sale price” as indicated on the price tag. That sale price will determine the degree of a retail theft offense. Retail theft is a second degree misdemeanor if the “sale price” is under $100.00 (punishable by up to 60 days in jail), a first degree misdemeanor if the “sale price” was between $100.00 and $300.00 (punishable by up to one year in jail), and it is a third degree felony when the “sale price” is over $300 (punishable by up to 5 years in Florida State Prison). Retail theft can also be charged as a second degree felony if it is a second offense (punishable by up to 15 years in Florida State Prison).
Another important distinguishing factor in retail theft cases is the fact that the prosecutor will have an easier time introducing evidence of the value of the merchandise during a trial. For example, if a defendant steals a pair of shoes from a store and the price tag says the shoes cost $100, the State Attorney will be able to use that price tag to establish the price during trial. However, if someone paid $100 for that same pair of shoes, and another person stole the shoes from the person instead of the store, the State Attorney would not be able to use the price tag at trial. Instead, the State would have to try to introduce evidence of the market value by having the victim testify what he paid for the shoes and the condition of the shoes when they were stolen.
Anyone who is arrested for a theft crime in Palm Beach County should contact a Palm Beach Criminal Defense attorney who understands the differences between the various theft charges and can explain the potential ramifications or outcomes of the criminal charge.
Casey Reiter is an associate attorney at Stuart R. Manoff & Associates, P.A. in West Palm Beach, Florida, practicing in the areas of Criminal Defense and Marital Law.