Florida enacts tougher penalties for retail and porch theft

by | Apr 9, 2024

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation on Tuesday introducing harsher penalties for organized retail theft and porch piracy in Florida, escalating charges based on the scale of theft and involvement.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation on Tuesday that introduces stricter penalties for theft, including organized retail theft and “porch piracy.”

Under the bill, carried through the Florida Legislature Rep. Bob Rommel, participating in a retail theft with five or more individuals would constitute a third-degree felony. The legislation escalates the penalty to a second-degree felony for anyone who organizes such thefts through the internet, specifically targeting the use of social media to coordinate these crimes. A further provision introduces a first-degree felony charge for repeat offenders or those committing theft with the use of a firearm.

The law additionally revises the aggregation criteria for retail theft charges, extending the period for summing individual thefts from 30 days to 120 days while concurrently mandating that courts order restitution for victims, covering both the value of stolen or damaged merchandise and any other property harmed during the crime.

“In the state of Florida we’re going to make sure that our retailers are able to sell products that consumers are able to benefit and that people are held accountable when they break the law,” DeSantis said during a Tuesday morning press conference.

The measure also addresses “porch piracy” — the theft of packages from residential porches — by making it a felony to steal packages regardless of the thief’s knowledge of the package’s value.

“You have a cottage industry of porch piracy where people will go and steal packages from somebody’s front door,” the governor continued. “It’s not something you should have to do in the state of Florida. And so we’re not going to put up that either.”

As the legislation moved through the Florida House and Senate, it drew criticism from some quarters, with opponents arguing that lowering the felony threshold for theft could lead to excessively harsh penalties for minor offenses. Critics, including the SPLC Action Fund, contended that such punitive measures would not effectively deter crime and could lead to an increase in the state’s incarceration rates without addressing the root causes of theft.

Rommel, however, argued that he intentionally crafted the bill to impose severe penalties as a proactive deterrent.

“The reason I made it so severe is I hope it deters people not to steal because it is affecting everybody,” he said.

During a committee meeting, Rommel pointed to the economic impact of retail theft, which he claimed cost American retailers approximately $101 billion last year.

In February, DeSantis pledged support for Rommel’s measure, alongside State Attorney General Ashley Moody and Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Mark Glass.


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