Teens Steal Purses in Coordinated Theft

A recent report by News4Jax states that nearly $18,000 of high end purses were stolen from a Kate Spade store at the St. Augustine Outlet Mall.  The theft happened during normal business hours.  The police report states that between seven or eight teens “burst” into the store, spread out, and grabbed 46 handbags/purses and ran out of the store.  A store employee attempted to block the door, but was unable to stop the thieves.  The teens were observed getting into a vehicle and the tag number was forwarded to law enforcement.

This style of theft is commonly referred to as a “Flash Mob.”  The goal is to get enough people involved knowing that a small store will not have the man power loss prevention people in place to stop everyone involved.  Here the seven to eight teens were able to storm the store and take 46 handbags/purses, and the employees of Kate Spade were not able to stop a single teen.  Across the country these types of thefts have occurred on a larger scale at larger retailers like WalMart and Target.

Theft in Florida

If the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office makes an arrest or arrests in this case it will likely be for Grand Theft, a Third Degree Felony under Florida State Statute 812.014.  Under Florida Law a person commits theft if he or she knowingly obtains or uses, or endeavors to obtain to use, the property of another with intent to, either temporarily or permanently deprive the other person of a right to the property or a benefit from the property.  Here it is clear that walking into the store, taking several hand bags, and walking out of the store without paying for the items is clearly stealing, and meats the elements of Florida Law.

What determines the exact charge is the amount of the handbags/purses.  Florida has several different levels of theft related crimes.  The majority are determined by the item stolen, or the amount the item is worth.  If the item is valued at less than $100 the crime is a Petit Theft, a Second Degree Misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days in the County Jail.  If the item is valued at more than $100 but less than $300 the crime is a Petit Theft, a First Degree Misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in the County Jail.  If the item is valued at more than $300 but less than $20,000, the crime is a Grand Theft, a Third Degree Felony, punishable by up to five years in Florida State Prison.

In the Kate Spade case each individual can likely be charged with Grand Theft.  The report makes it clear the teens worked together to take the handbags/purses.  Therefore if one of the teens only took one item valued under $300 the charge would typically be a Petit Theft, however, in this scenario the State of Florida will likely be able to place the full $18,000 theft to each suspect individually under the principal theory. Florida’s principal theory is defined in Florida Statute 777.011.

All Fun and Games

Any arrest on your record is a serious situation.  What many individuals who go into a store to steal do not consider is how harsh the Florida law is written when it comes to the Robbery Section found in Florida State Statute 812.13.  Robbery under Florida Law is defined as the taking of money or other property which may be the subject of larceny (Theft) from the person or custody of another, with intent to either permanently or temporarily deprive the person or the owner of the money or other property, when in the course of the taking there is the use of force, violence, assault, or putting in fear.

The only difference between an individual being charged with a Robbery over a Theft is “in the course of the taking there is the use of force, violence, or putting in fear.  Often times when caught by a Store Employee or Loss Prevention, the accused will try and fight their way out of the store.  At this very moment the charge can be upgraded to a Robbery.  A Robbery in this manner with no weapon or firearm is a Second Degree Felony, punishable by up to Fifteen Years in the Florida State Prison.  It is also important to note that Robbery does not require any dollar amount on the value of the item stolen.  This is how stealing a simple pack of gum can turn into fifteen years in prison if you were to fight with a store employee.

It unclear at this point if the teens used force, violence, or fear to commit this crime.  The report simply states that a store employee tried to block the door and was unable to stop the thieves.  I am certain that none of the teens ever contemplated that storming a store to take a purse could ever potentially turn into a robbery that easily.  At this moment there is no indication that any of the teens face Robbery charges, however it is a true possibility.

What Should you do if you are Facing Theft Related Charges

A theft related charge can haunt you the rest of your life when it comes to future employment or enrolling in school.  It is standard for job applications as well as school applications to include questions regarding prior arrests.  A theft related prior is certainly going to raise red flags during the application process.

Should you, a friend or a family member have the above type of scenario at hand or have a pending warrant for a theft related case, consult with a Jacksonville (Duval), Nassau, Baker, Bradford, St. Johns and Clay County criminal defense attorney.  The Jacksonville based Forbess Law Firm, has handled countless numbers of theft cases involving Grand Theft, Petit Theft, Employee Theft, Schemes to Defraud, Utterings, Worthless Checks, all the way from that simple pack of gum up to extremely complex White Collar Fraud cases.  We always offer a free consultation and/or jail visit and can be reached at 904-634-0900.

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