If you have noticed a recent uptick in the cost of groceries, clothing, gasoline and other essential items, you are not imagining things. In fact, the price of consumer goods has risen faster since January 2020 than any time during the previous 13 years. Still, store owners have broad flexibility to set prices for the items they sell.
To save a few bucks, it may be tempting for consumers to switch price tags or universal price codes. Doing so, though, constitutes retail theft, which is a crime in the Sunshine State.
Shoplifting is probably the most common type of retail theft. With shoplifting, a person takes an item off the shelves and leaves the store without paying for it. By contrast, switching price tags allows an individual to purchase an item for the price of a lower item or clearance one. Those looking for a bargain may also try to alter price tags by changing listed prices to lower ones.
Shoplifting, switching price tags and altering prices are all illegal in Florida under the state’s retail theft statute.
In Florida, the penalties for retail theft typically depend on the value of the stolen merchandise.
- Theft of property worth $100 or less is a second-degree misdemeanor. Following a conviction, a person may spend up to 60 days in jail and pay up to $500 in fines.
- Theft of property worth between $100 and $750 is a first-degree misdemeanor. Following a conviction, a person may spend up to a year in jail and pay up to $1,000 in fines.
- Theft of property worth between $750 and $20,000 is a third-degree felony. Following a conviction, a person may spend up to five years in jail and pay up to $5,000 in fines.
Ultimately, because of the harsh penalties for switching or altering price tags, it may be advisable for defendants to explore all possible options for mounting an aggressive defense or negotiating an acceptable plea deal.