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State News

Governor DeSantis signs bill to increase penalties for retail and porch theft in Florida

Tallahassee, Florida – Governor Ron DeSantis has taken a definitive step to combat the rising incidents of retail theft and porch piracy in Florida by signing HB 549, which notably increases penalties for these crimes. This legislative move is part of a broader effort to maintain order and protect businesses and residents from the escalating trend of organized theft, which is often amplified by social media.

Stricter Laws to Deter Theft

Under the new law, the state of Florida introduces harsher consequences for those involved in retail theft and porch piracy, setting a clear deterrent against these criminal activities. Governor DeSantis emphasized the state’s commitment to law enforcement and public safety, stating, “Florida is taking another step to distinguish ourselves from lawless jurisdictions and keep our residents and businesses safe. If you steal in Florida, we will catch you and we will prosecute you.”

The legislation comes in response to a nationwide increase in retail thefts, which saw retailers losing approximately $112 billion in 2022 alone. Major cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., have experienced sharp increases in such crimes. Conversely, Florida has seen a significant decrease in shoplifting incidents, with a 30% reduction since Governor DeSantis first assumed office.

Details of HB 549

The bill establishes severe penalties for various forms of theft:

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  • Engaging in retail theft with five or more individuals is now classified as a third-degree felony, with a penalty of up to 5 years in prison.
  • If offenders use social media to coordinate retail theft with five or more participants, they face a second-degree felony charge, which can lead to up to 15 years in prison.
  • A first-degree felony, which carries a sentence of up to 30 years, will be applied if the theft is committed with a firearm or if the offender has two or more prior retail theft convictions.
  • The legislation allows for felony charges for multiple retail thefts committed within 120 days, an increase from the previous 30-day period.

For porch piracy, the penalties are as follows:

  • Stealing property valued under $40 is considered a first-degree misdemeanor.
  • A subsequent offense escalates to a third-degree felony.
  • Theft of property worth $40 or more is directly treated as a third-degree felony.

Support from State Officials

The bill received strong support from state officials, including Attorney General Ashley Moody, who remarked, “Florida is a law-and-order state, and our policies combating organized retail theft are another shining example of how we are leading the nation.” Representative Bob Rommel also highlighted the negative impact of unchecked retail theft in other major cities, underscoring Florida’s proactive stance in holding criminals accountable.

This legislation is part of Florida’s ongoing efforts to reinforce its status as a safe, law-abiding state. By implementing these stringent measures, Florida aims to deter potential criminals, safeguard its communities, and ensure that the state remains a secure place for both businesses and residents.

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