In Florida, the crime of petit theft involves taking the property of another without authorization and without threats or force. If the value of the property is less than $300, it is a misdemeanor crime. A misdemeanor petit theft conviction is not extremely serious, but it can result in jail time and can certainly affect a person’s criminal record permanently depending on the outcome. However, in pretty much every scenario, a misdemeanor charge is much better and less serious than a felony charge.
Many petit theft cases are shoplifting cases (which is not a legal term). Many shoplifting cases involves less than $300 and are misdemeanor cases. However, a shoplifting/petit theft case that involves stealing $100 worth of merchandise can become a felony if an anti-shoplifting device is used.
In a recent petit theft case near Jacksonville, Florida, the defendant was seen in the store with what appeared to be a thick, heavy and worn shopping bag from a different store. The store security officer watched as the defendant put various clothing items (worth approximately $150) in the bag, walk past the cashiers and walk past the sensors at the exits without paying. The sensors did not activate. The security officer stopped the defendant and found various store merchandise items in the bag. He also took possession of the bag. Apparently, the bag was actually a few shopping bags taped together. One of the inside bags had been lined with aluminum and duct tape. The purpose of this lining was to prevent the alarm sensors in the store from going off. Apparently, that part of the plan worked.
Normally, this defendant would be charged with misdemeanor petit theft for stealing less than $300 worth of merchandise. However, because she used the altered shopping back as an anti-shoplifting device, she was also charged with possession/use of an anti-shoplifting device which is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. The Florida law defines an anti-shoplifting device as anything that is designed, manufactured or modified to defeat any device that detects shoplifting. The court found that this altered bag was an anti-shoplifting device, and the defendant was convicted of a felony for using it in what would otherwise have been a misdemeanor petit theft case.