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Florida is a popular retreat destination for honeymooners, families, college students and aspiring thieves. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement reports that an average of one larceny (theft) occurred every minute in Florida during 2008. Orange County alone, which is home to many popular tourist attractions including the Walt Disney World Resort, reported 38,762 thefts. It is important for the estimated one in eleven Americans who shoplifts to know the consequences of committing larceny should they travel to Florida on business or pleasure.
Florida's Unique Situation
As a popular vacation destination, Florida is a unique target for tourist thefts within the United States. The Walt Disney Resort in Orlando is one of the most well-known locations for thieves seeking five-finger discounts. In fact, Disney Security reports that an average of eight shoplifting arrests are made daily at Walt Disney World and an Orange County Sheriff's officer stationed at Disney confesses that one of the most consistent crimes at the Resort is petit theft. The Walt Disney Company practices a zero-tolerance policy toward theft. Even shoplifting merchandise that costs under a dollar can land a tourist in handcuffs. Many other attractions in Orlando and across Florida have similar zero-tolerance policies.
Theft: Crime and Punishment
Tourist thefts are typically punished under Florida criminal law as retail theft, petit larceny or grand larceny. Retail theft or shoplifting is punished similarly to the more general categories of petit and grand larceny. The petit and grand larceny categories also apply to the theft of property off of another's person, however, and are not limited to theft inside a retail store.
Petit larceny, which consists of unlawfully taking another's property with the intent to deprive the other of it, is theft of property worth less than $300. Petit larceny is most often a misdemeanor and is punishable by a fine up to $500 and/or up to 60 days in jail. A third petit-larceny conviction, however, may be treated as a felony and is punishable by a fine up to $5,000 and/or up to five years in prison.
Retail theft of property under $300 in value is punishable similarly to petit larceny on a first offense. The punishment for a second retail theft of property under $300 in value increases to a fine up to $1,000 and/or one year in jail. A third offense of this kind is considered a felony and is punishable by a fine up to $5,000 and up to 5 years in jail.
Retail theft and grand larceny of property over $300 in value are considered felonies and are punishable by fines up to $5,000 and/or up to 5 years in prison. The penalties can further increase if the value of property taken is worth $20,000 or more.
For Further Reference
The National Association for Shoplifting Prevention estimates that over $13 billion in goods are stolen from retailers annually. If you are a tourist charged with theft or larceny in Florida, please contact an experienced criminal law attorney. A lawyer may be able to negotiate a resolution to your case without the court requiring you to return to Florida to attend hearings.