America’s Shoplifting Epidemic and Florida Law

March 19, 2024

America’s Shoplifting Epidemic and Florida Law

Recent articles, see e.g.,, report that the United States is experiencing a organized “shoplifting epidemic” with an estimated annual cost to retail store of $100 Billion as of 2021. Walmart stores have closed in Portland and Chicago, drug store thefts in New York City have become all too common. In Baltimore, a landmark grocery store shut its doors after almost a quarter century in business. In San Francisco, major chain stores have abandoned the downtown area due to rampant shoplifting. In 2021, Walgreens closed five San Francisco locations due to “organized shoplifting.”

Daily drug habits can cost hundreds of dollars, and addicts support their costly drug habits by shoplifting (also known as “boosting”). Items “boosted” are sold to stolen merchandise dealers (also known as “fences”). “Boosters” are usually paid between 10 to 20% of retail value.

In Lee v. State, 2024 Fla. App. LEXIS 1087 (Fla. 4th DCA 02/14/2024), Raymond A. Lee appealed his conviction for resisting an officer. Mr. Lee argued that the trial court erred in denying judgment of acquittal because the state failed to show that the police officers were performing a legal duty when they attempted to detain and handcuff him for suspected shoplifting at a local convenience store. The appellate court concluded that Fla. Stat. § 812.015(4) gave police officers the authority to arrest and handcuff Mr. Lee based solely upon the information that was provided by a convenience store employee. See Lee at *1 (citing Bent v. State, 257 So. 3d 501 (Fla. 4th DCA 2018) (§ 812.015(3)(a) allows police to detain based on probable cause provided by store employee’s report of suspected shoplifting; even a “merchant” who has probable cause may detain a shoplifting suspect but a law enforcement officer must be immediately called to the scene)).

Mr. Lee also argued that the prosecution presented two different acts that could constitute resisting an officer – his refusal to “back up” when recording the arrest of his friend, and later resisting being handcuffed when he was detained.

See Lee at *1-*2 Although Mr. Lee did not object at his trial, he argued this was fundamental error because it could have resulted in a non-unanimous verdict. The appellate court disagreed. Mr. Lee was charged with resisting with violence, and the only alleged violence occurred when Mr. Lee resisted being handcuffed. The prosecution did not ask the jury to find resisting arrest with violence based upon Mr. Lee’s refusal to “back up.” The appellate court affirmed the conviction quoting its opinion in Johnson v. State, 357 So. 3d 156, 162(Fla. 4th DCA 2023) (“Where the state does not affirmatively advise the jury that it can convict using any number of acts as the essential element of the crime, the possibility of a non-unanimous verdict does not constitute fundamental error.”)

South Florida has also seen its own share of such organized retail theft. See (October 25, 2023). A criminal defense lawyer must defend the rights of the accused and leave judging to judges.

If you or someone you love needs a Criminal Defense Attorney to help with a shoplifting or theft case, please give us a call at 772-464-1991. We would be happy to help.

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