More Strict Penalties For Florida Theft Crimes Are Coming

Have you  been arrested, or received a notice to appear or citation, for petit theft?  If so, you will soon need to be even more careful how your case is resolved due to a recent proposal to strengthen Florida laws concerning theft crimes.

Up until now, persons committing petit theft in Florida generally did not have to worry about going to jail or prison for their offense.  But earlier this week Governor Ron DeSantis announced proposed legislation aimed at slowing the increasing numbers of retail theft and porch piracy throughout the country. According to Governor DeSantis, retailers nationwide lost $112 billion to retail theft, with notable increases in major cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.

“If you commit a crime in Florida, you are going to be held accountable,” Governed DeSantis warned.  “We will not tolerate retail crime, porch pirates and the lawlessness that they allow in California and New York.”

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody mirrored Governor DeSantis’ sentiments, stating “Florida is a law-and-order state, and we take action when we see concerning crime trends that could harm Floridians,” Attorney General Moody further stated “We are leaders in the fight against organized retail theft, and I’m thrilled to stand with Governor DeSantis today to continue our goal of stopping theft by supporting legislation to stamp out porch piracy.”

And Commissioner Mark Glass of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said “Governor DeSantis continues to strengthen Florida laws to fight organized retail theft, cracking down on the kind of professional shoplifting that we’ve seen plague other states. He is ensuring Florida will stay safe for families, prosperous for our businesses and a paradise for our visitors.”

The proposed new legislation will change Florida theft law in several material respects, including:

  • Making it a third degree felony if you commit retail theft with five or more individuals.
  • Making it a second degree felony if you use social media to solicit others to participate in retail theft.
  • Making it a first degree felony if you commit retail theft with a firearm or you have two or more prior convictions of retail theft.
  • Reducing the stolen property value necessary to charge you with a felony for stealing delivered packages.

Governor DeSantis further expressed his intention that prosecutors strictly enforce the proposed new theft laws.  “So we’re going to be working with the legislature,” the governor said. “And part of that is you need to make sure that of course prosecutors do their job and we’ve shown we’ve been willing to suspend prosecutors when they haven’t enforced the law. But part of it is to make sure that the penalties are severe enough to deter people from doing this into the future. And right now we have a situation in Florida, where you only get a felony if you do five different retail thefts within a 45 day period. Well, excuse me, you should, I mean, you shouldn’t do it at all. But if you do it and get caught, you go back to the well, again, they should drop the hammer on you.”

If you’ve been charged with petit theft, the proposed new law can potentially have devastating consequences to you.  Currently, if you’ve been convicted of two or more prior petit theft offenses you can be subject to as much as one year in jail.  However, under the Governor’s proposed new law, if you’ve been convicted of two or more prior petit theft offenses then you can be charged with a first degree felony.  First degree felonies are punishable by up to 30 years in prison.  So, under the Governor’s proposed legislation, the maximum penalty for repeat petit theft offenders is increased by 30 times.  This is what the Governor means when he says if you repeat the offense of petit theft the prosecutor should “drop the hammer on you.”

The penalties for petit theft are already enhanced for repeat offenders under existing Florida law.  But the Governor’s proposed changes to Florida’s theft laws increases the potential penalties for repeat offenders exponentially.  It is therefore critical for you to ensure you are not convicted of petit theft for even a first offense so that there is no basis for you to go to prison if you were to receive subsequent petit theft convictions.

If you were arrested or given a notice to appear or citation for petit theft, you should consult with a Jacksonville criminal defense attorney versed in upcoming changes to the law governing theft offenses.  If you do so, you’ll have the best chances of having your charges dropped or reduced and avoiding harsh penalties, including jail or prison.  Call me for a free case strategy session to discuss how I can best help you with your theft case in Jacksonville, Fernandina Beach, Yulee, Macclenny, Green Cove Springs, Middleburg, St. Augustine or surrounding areas.



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