HB 549 Could Increase Theft Penalties in Florida
Over the past few months and years, politicians and business owners have raised considerable concerns about rising levels of theft across the nation. Florida is no exception, and many lawmakers in the Sunshine State want to respond with more serious penalties for theft. The central issue seems to be retail theft – also known as “shoplifting.” There has been much talk about HB 549 – a new bill that specifically targets shoplifters. What do residents of Florida need to know about this new bill?
House Bill 549 Explained
Bob Rommel introduced House Bill 549, and it would define a wider range of retail theft as a third-degree felony in Florida. Normally, if the value of the stolen goods is over $750, you face up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Under House Bill 549, you would also face a third-degree felony if more than five people are involved in the retail theft – regardless of the value of the stolen goods. In other words, “smash and grabs” would be defined as third-degree felonies – even if the value of the stolen goods is worth only a few dollars.
The bill specifically describes these smash and grabs, stating that “overwhelming the response of a merchant, merchant’s employee, or law enforcement officer in order to carry out the offense or avoid detection or apprehension for the offense” would be defined as a third-degree felony under HB 549.
Along with the equally new Senate Bill 824, the new legislation would also target repeat offenders. Under the new laws, you would also face a third-degree felony if you commit retail theft three times within 365 days.
The most severe penalty would be reserved for those who commit retail theft with the intent to sell the stolen goods for a profit that exceeds $3,000. If these lawmakers have their way, anyone convicted of this offense would face a second-degree felony – and a maximum prison sentence of 15 years.
Updated Defense Strategies for Shoplifting in Florida May be Necessary
Regardless of whether these laws actually pass, the same defense strategies for shoplifting would still likely apply. However, updated defense strategies may be more effective with changing legislation. For example, it might become very important to establish that you were acting independently and not part of an organized group. Perhaps you were shoplifting at the same time as another person purely due to coincidence.
Get in Touch with a Theft Defense Lawyer
If you have been accused of theft or shoplifting, it makes sense to get in touch with a qualified, experienced defense lawyer at your earliest convenience. Choose the Fort Myers criminal defense lawyers at the Foley & Wilson Law Firm to immediately get started with an appropriate defense strategy. We keep a close eye on the latest changes to Florida’s theft laws – and we help our clients take advantage of the most up-to-date defense strategies. Reach out to today to begin the discussion.