New Florida Law Cracks Down on Organized Retail Theft

July 7, 2022 Criminal Defense, News & Announcements, Theft/Property Crimes

The newest bill signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis is taking aim at the rise of retail theft in the state. The measure is designated to crack down on what State Attorney Ashley Moody has called “organized retail crime.”

Under SB 1534, harsher penalties will be invoked on individuals who are caught stealing. The new bill will now make it a second or third-degree felony to get caught stealing, depending on the quantity of stolen goods.

While some legislators believe the new bill is necessary to prevent retail theft from becoming more common in Florida, there are others who oppose the bill. The opposition comes from the worry that young teens could be facing felony charges for stealing items such as school supplies.

While we have already covered the bill once before, we will go into more detail of SB 1534 with the State Attorney’s press release, the statistics on retail crime in Florida, SB 1534’s details, as well as the responses from the bill’s signing.

State Attorney’s Address 

In a news release published on January 4th, 2022, State Attorney Ashley Moody addressed the concern for the rise in organized retail crime. State Attorney Moody vowed to work with state legislators to create state laws that are effective in helping prosecutors dismantle organized theft crime rings.

The following is a statement provided by State Attorney Moody:

“We’ve seen the damage and disorder caused by brazen criminals across the country through terrifying smash-and-grab robberies, and we must continue to innovate to stay ahead of this national crime trend. Last month, I launched FORCE to bolster our efforts to stop and prevent organized crime in Florida and this legislative session, I will partner with state legislators to make sure our laws are effective in helping law enforcement and prosecutors stop retail theft gangs from targeting our stores.”

In December 2021, State Attorney Moody started the Florida Organized Retail Crime Exchange, which is a task force and database for police, prosecutors, and retailers to work together to identify organized retail theft rings. The task force was a response to 70% of Florida retailers addressing their concern for an increase in theft crimes within the last year.

Florida Senator Jim Boyd discussed the rise of “smash-and-grab” crimes hitting Florida. “Already struggling retailers nationwide are seeing an uptick in this type of organized retail theft,” Boyd said. “It is a public safety issue that we must address to prevent these horrible actions from harming our residents and bankrupting Florida businesses.”

Senator Chuck Clemmons Sr. is one of the sponsors of the newly passed retail bill in Florida. His comment on organized retail crime is as follows: “If you commit a crime in Florida, you should expect to face justice and that is why it is so important that we work together this session to stay ahead of the organized retail theft. It is a public safety issue that we must address to prevent these horrible actions from harming our residents and bankrupting Florida businesses.”

Organized Retail Crime Statistics

According to the 2021 National Retail Security Survey, retailers in Florida pointed out their growing list of threats to their companies. When questioned on what areas of threats have increased the most over the last five years, mall or store violence, cyber-related incidents, and organized retail crime are at the top of the list. Organized retail crime is at 64% for its potential risks to stores.

 Due to COVID-19, there was a decrease in shoplifting for a long period of time. With pandemic restrictions and store closures, retail theft was almost nonexistent. However now that restrictions have been lifted, there has been such a large increase in shoplifting that the number of shoplifting is even worse than pre-pandemic numbers.

The survey indicates that 69% of retailers saw an increase in organized retail crime in the last year. In addition, 65% of retailers have found that there is an increase in aggression and violence when it comes to shoplifting. When asked about the need for federal organized retail crime laws, 78% of retailers agreed that it was necessary.

SB 1534

Gov. Ron DeSantis has just signed the new SB 1534 against retail crime in the state of Florida. The bill was signed and passed on June 17th, 2022. Under the title “Retail Theft” bill 1534 states that it prohibits certain retail theft at multiple locations within a specified timeframe and provides new criminal penalties for individuals who commit organized retail crimes.

Under the new measure, if an individual steals 10 or more items from at least two separate store locations within a 30-day period, they can face a third-degree felony charge. If an individual is caught stealing 20 or more items within a 30-day period, than they can face a second-degree felony.

A third-degree felony charge is punishable with up to a $5,000 fine and up to 5 years in prison. A second-degree felony charge is punishable with up to a $10,000 fine and up to 15 years in prison.

Responses to SB 1534

The newest retail theft bill has received mixed reviews. Supporters of the bill include State Attorney Ashley Moody, and the Florida Retail Federation. They believe the harsher penalties are a necessity with the recent rise in organized retail theft rings. Specifically, the act of “boosting” which is referred to when an individual fills an entire shopping cart with high-value items and runs out of the store, often to an accomplice waiting in a getaway car.

State Attorney Ashely Moody posted a tweet after the bill passed in the House 80-36 and in the Senate 38-0. “Thank you, Sen. Jim Boyd and Rep. Chuck Clemons,” the tweet read. “For your hard work on this important bill, which will help us stop organized retail theft and build a stronger, safer Florida.”

However, there have been some issues addressed by criminal justice reform advocates. St. Pete Sen. Jeff Brandes called the measures too harsh, especially when it comes to teens and adolescents.

Brandes spoke at the committee debate, and warned that a teenage shoplifter could now face felony charges for stealing school supplies, resulting in harsh penalties and a ruined future.

Michael Grieco, a representative from North Bay Village, also reminded the committee that just last year lawmakers promised to stop harsher sentencing that can lead to mass incarceration. He addressed that second-degree felonies are typically “reserved for pretty violent crimes.”

“I think we’re going in the wrong direction if we’re going to be increasing penalties for non-violent offenses,” Grieco said.

The president of the Florida Retail Federation, Scott Shalley, remains pleased with the newest law. “Florida leads the way in holding criminals accountable for their actions,” Shalley said. “This legislation will protect Florida retail businesses from the rising impacts of organized retail theft.”

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

Getting accused of a theft crime is a serious deal in the state of Florida. Whether it is petit theft or grand theft, there are harsh consequences that an individual can face if convicted. With SB 1534 getting signed, you can now get charged with a felony for getting caught stealing. If you or a loved one have been charged with a theft crime, your first move should be to reach out to a skilled criminal defense attorney in Florida. The best way to build a strong defense for your case is to work with an attorney experienced with theft crime charges. Pumphrey Law Firm has represented clients all across the state for various charges. We will be there with you throughout the entire legal process, and work to ensure your freedom. For a free consultation, call (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message today.

Written by Karissa Key

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